Ilan Rubin is best known for the intense, driving force he galvanizes Nine Inch Nails with behind the drum kit. Seriously, look up some video of this guy (we did it for you). He is all muscle and shocks of hair...a seizure-induced flail of limbs crushing cymbals and rolling through NIN's industrial-sized fills. It is really something. No wonder he can say he's been a professional, touring musician since the age of 14 (also spending time behind the kit for Paramore and Angels & Airwaves).
"As I was growing up I became more and more interested in other instruments," the unassuming, supremely down-to-earth, 28-year-old recently told us. "Not that my love for the drums diminished in any way. I just found interest in other places...guitar, bass, piano. But I was a late comer to singing. I started signing at about 18 years old. I saw that as the final piece to the musical puzzle." And thus, Rubin's own musical project, The New Regime, was born.
Rubin has released two proper full-length albums under his New Regime moniker: 2008's Coup and Speak Through The White Noise three years later in 2011. In 2013 he released an extended, 8 song EP titled, Exhibit A; a collection of songs that, in his own words were, "very different from one another, in the sense that I could have taken the style of any one song and written a whole album based around that." It's an interesting concept...one he returned to on the long awaited follow-up to Exhibit A, conveniently titled Exhibit B, which was written and recorded almost entirely while touring with NIN in 2013-14. If you're going to stay as busy as Rubin does, you've got to demonstrate some creative patience. Exhibit B did not get released until 2015 and he didn't even make his way to our studio until 2016. The nerve of this man!
In our newest Baeble NEXT session, Rubin takes us through what it's like to be involved in so many musical endeavors, as well as touches on the differences between fronting and managing his own projects and working with living legends. He also offers up 3 riffy, acoustic takes from the Exhibit EPs. It's a fascinating profile on an artist who has found amazing ways to make an living out of his surreal, musical talents.
Listen to the words I'm trying to get through Never want to hear my voice of reason Put up another wall for me to go underground Pull on another thread and make us unravel You've got the soul of a mannequin Your cold dead eyes stare right through me You've got the soul of a mannequin Roll out din In the distance If you want to leave Don't make it hard now Even with you here You've been gone elsewhere We've been at civil war for far too long now You've shown a face that I want nothing to do with You've got the soul of a mannequin Your cold dead eyes stare right through me You've got the soul of a mannequin Roll out din in the distance Ah ah nah nah nah nah nah na Ah ah nah nah nah nah nah na Ah ah nah nah nah nah nah na Ah ah nah nah nah nah nah na Ah ah nah nah nah nah nah na Ah ah nah nah nah nah nah na Ah ah nah nah nah nah nah na Ah ah You've got the soul of a mannequin Your cold dead eyes stare right through me You've got the soul of a mannequin Roll out din in the distance You've got the soul of a mannequin Your cold dead eyes Stare right through me ooh ooh ooh You've got the soul of a mannequin Roll out din in the distance drummer, so I'm a drummer. I started playing at the age of about seven or eight. I was full tour musician by the age of 14. As I was growing up, I became more and more interested in other instruments, not that my love for the drums diminished in any way. I just found interest in other places, whether it be guitar, bass, piano. So I was a late comer to singing. I started singing at about 18 years old. I saw that as the final piece of the musical puzzle, to where I could do everything myself. As I've become more comfortable and experienced as a singer, I've kind of been able to view it from the other side of the spectrum, which is just a more natural place, just singing, enjoying doing it, not thinking too much about it, really just experimenting until I stumble across what I like, rather than looking at it from a more composed, musical place. It's very fun and it's exciting. It's something that's always evolving for me. Step into a town Where it doesn't exist No one to love And nothing to miss Dust keeping still On the window sill It's all I ever see In this daydream People like figurines playing a scene Soldiers and saints Marching in their place Flipping a coin for the human race It's all I ever see In this daydream yeah Everything is turned around I don't want to be hanging 'round I don't want it your way But I can't have it my way Everything is turned around I don't want to be hanging 'round I don't want it your way But I can't have it my way hey Ay ay ay ay Now preaching from above To a choir below How many times Can you reap what you sow? Hitching a ride To the great unknown It's all I ever see In this daydream Looking up, feeling down is what It's about Say the men in the mines In this mental drought I've had enough So I'm checking out It's all I ever see In this daydream yeah Everything is turned around I don't want to be hanging ''round I don't want it your way But I can't have it my way Everything is turned around I don't want to be hanging 'round I don't want it your way But I can't have it my way hey Stand tall In this world of disappointments How long Before we get to make it right again? Everything is turned around I don't want to be hanging 'round I don't want it your way But I can't have it my way Everything is turned around I don't want to be hanging 'round I don't want it your way I don't want it your way But I can't have it my way hey Ay ay ay ay Stand tall In this world of disappointments How long Before we get to make it right again? - Yeah, the latest New Regime release is called Exhibit B, and the majority of that was written, and a lot of it was recorded on tour when I was playing drums for Nine Inch Nails. There's always something to learn, you know, but I feel like the greatest educational tool is experience. And I've been at it for 20 years at this point, and I really look forward to learning new things because new things that you learn, the growth is kind of stunted a little bit. You know? So when something new and exciting does come along, like Nine Inch Nails, it's great, and you know, I learn everything I can from it. Every time I write a song, I just have the natural inclination to approach the next one a little bit differently. Whatever just keeps me interested in that moment, because really the most important thing of any song is the melody. So whatever inspires the melody, is what is most important, gets me through that song. I just want people to appreciate the music of the New Regime, and see it as good and the quality that I think it is. I mean, I put a lot of time, effort, and work into it, and obviously any band just wants to gain a popularity, and get out there and play to as many people as you can, have as many people enjoy the music. The New Regime is the complete representative of myself as a musician and a songwriter. My fear's growing tall love Our sense might disappear People in a whirlwind All that is insincere We rise, we fall We fly, we crawl But I feel the end coming I'm up off the sinking ship I'd give you what's real But you crave a simple fix I heard someone saying Whatever makes them tick We rise, we fall We fly, we crawl But I feel the end coming I'm up off the sinking ship Oh, the future's burning red Oooh, what's in the past is dead Oh, the future's burning red Oooh, what's in the past is dead. Ooh, Dead, ooh, dead, ooh, dead, ooh We rise, we fall we fly, we crawl But I feel the end coming I'm up off the sinking ship We rise, we fall We fly, we crawl But I feel the end coming I'm up off the sinking ship Oh, the future's burning red Oh, what's in the past is dead Oh, the future's burning red Ooh, what's in the past is dead
Multi-instrumentalist Ilan Rubin is best known for his work with Nine Inch Nails, Angels & Airwaves and a brief stint with Paramore. But it can be argued that his best work happens when this one-man-band is fronting-and backing-The New Regime.
Exhibit B is the name of the New Regime's new eight-song EP, which Rubin wrote and recorded almost entirely while touring with NIN in 2013-14. Given what his night job was at the time, you might expect the results of his daylighting to sound Trent-influenced. Perhaps you'll find some of that in there, but you may be more immediately struck by the old-school classicism of Rubin's approach.
"You have some people thinking, 'Sure, he's a really good musician, but can he write songs?' Then they kind of view the music with this vision of a musician who's singing. But the foundations of what I love are the Beatles, Queen, Led Zeppelin, the Police - great, great songwriters. My sensibilities come from the catchiest and most successful music of all time. So it's kind of a meeting of two different frames of mind: People who want to dig into the musicianship have it there, and people who just want to listen to the catchy melody on top have that there. There's something for everybody," he laughs.
Rubin's resume includes some pretty impressive percussion-related feats, in both the early and later going. He's been touring the world since age 14 and now 26, one of his latest accomplishments was parlaying his percussive renown into the co-ownership of Q Drum Co., a substantial new player in the world of percussion instruments.
But the years in-between found Rubin developing his prowess on every other instrument he could get his calloused hands on. He started playing the guitar seriously at 12, and took up the piano at 16 upon developing a newfound love of classical music. Eventually the secret that he could just about do it all started to trickle out.
"Most people didn't know about all the things I could do because there wasn't really a place to showcase those skills," he says. "When I first toured with Nine Inch Nails in 2009, Trent knew that I could play piano, so for that tour, whenever there was a piano playing in the songs, I would take it over. It wasn't until this last 2013-14 tour that I got to stretch my wings. Nine Inch Nails was down to a four-piece, so we needed to distribute parts as best we could. There were a lot of moments when I played bass and guitar and some keyboards. And I think that that was a big help in getting everybody to see a bit more of what I'm about as a musician." He also picked up a new instrument, the cello, at Reznor's behest. "I'm happy to be in the back as a drummer, too - it's a very comfortable, second-nature place for me - but being able to constantly run around and do different things is something that could only be done with Nine Inch Nails."
He took on a more traditional role with Paramore, filling in on that band's self-titled album when they found themselves suddenly drummer-less, and even going out in that role on some tour dates before Reznor called him back for a surprise NIN reformation. "It was the first time I'd played with people who were my age," he points out, "and we got along really well. Sessions are fun, because it's a way of temporarily putting you in a setting that you wouldn't usually be in, and you sharpen your skills and move on. It was initially supposed to just be the album, but we got along so well that I ended up playing with them live at South by Southwest and a lot of TV and European, Asian and Australian gigs. Had it not been for Nine Inch Nails, I'm positive that I would have done that whole touring cycle."
When Angels & Airwaves' Tom DeLonge started planning The Dream Walker, Ilan's involvement was hardly just for "sessions." Rubin was a full creative partner with DeLonge on the collective's recent album, which came out in the last month of 2014. "It's the first time I've collaborated with anybody else as a writer," Rubin points out. "I would always be part of someone else's band and play drums and that was it, or I'd write all my own music entirely by myself. So this was a great experience, and it was very respectable and impressive that Tom would be willing to hand over the reins as much as he did after writing his own music for so long."
But even with that expanded collaborative role in Angels & Airwaves, Rubin was the completer of songs, not the instigator. To find out what it sounds like when he's in control of the process from start to finish, you of course have to look to - or listen to - The New Regime, now on record number four, between two full-length albums and two EPs. He finds that when people find out The New Regime is a one-man band, he runs into the perception that some other musicians have done that same thing as more of a stunt than a musical necessity.
"It's not me playing other instruments because I can," he points out. "It's because I can execute my exact vision for the music. I view the music as a composer, except I'm able to play all the instruments in the orchestra. This isn't music that stems from 'Hey guys, let's get in a room and jam and see what happens.' I play the bass, guitar, and piano the way I want it to be done for these songs, so why would I have anybody else but me do these things, when I'm able to play exactly what I'm envisioning?"
Exhibit B was recorded partly in Rubin's vastly equipped home studio and partly in hotel rooms equipped with little more than a computer, MIDI controller, a bass and a guitar. Some of the album's sounds hark back to an analog-synth era while others pay homage to the spirits of fuzz pedals past all while feeling fresh to today's modern ears.
The first two New Regime releases, 2008's Coup and 2011's Speak Through the White Noise, were cohesive albums, thought out from top to bottom. For the 2013 release Exhibit A, "the songs were very different from one another, in the sense that I could have taken the style of any one song and written a whole album based around that." The same holds true with Exhibit B, and will with future "exhibits," which may or may not be limited by the number of letters in the alphabet.
The work ethic is further seen in Rubin's serious involvement with Q Drum Co., which has created quite a buzz in the percussion community for going against the grain - so to speak - by specializing in drums not constructed from the usual wooden materials.
"We do make more of your traditional mahogany and maple drums, and those are fantastic," he says. "But the thing that would immediately set Q Drum Co. apart from other companies are the drums that are made out of different metal materials, whether it be brass, copper and stainless steel - the list can go on and on and on. The thing with drums is, there's a lot of manufacturing time that goes into making something that is somewhat simple. There are no electronics. The instrument itself hasn't really evolved. There are no pickups, no pedals, no amps. It is what it is: a round cylinder with a piece of plastic on it that you hit. So to find a different take on this instrument that nobody else is doing really piqued my interest in joining the company."
Reinventing the drum is only a little less novel than reinventing the wheel. But what Rubin is really reinventing is how a virtuosic musician can approach his career, as a critical member of multiple collectives as well as being the maestro and master of his own regime. The challenge, now, is embracing the fact that these other affiliations lead fans to his own self-generated music while also hoping that the thrill of musical discovery can happen spontaneously for those less familiar with his resume.
"The affiliations definitely help," he acknowledges. But when he took time off from his other crews to tour under his own banner, "I loved that there were people in the audience enjoying the show and buying merch at the end of the night - walking home with albums and shirts - based on enjoying the opening band called The New Regime, and they had no idea of my other affiliations. Their judgment was based on the music and the performance and had nothing to do with my career. It justified the fact that this is something entirely different to the other things that I do and it felt great."
Whether listeners know where Rubin has already been or not, they're arriving at a rich musical landscape this renaissance man signals with the title of the new record's opening track: "Where I've Headed All Along."