I caught up with drummer and musician extraordinaire, Ilan Rubin, to discuss The New Regime's upcoming album, his upcoming tour with Nine Inch Nails and his recent work drumming for Paramore.
Hi Ilan, what are you up to at the moment?
Currently, I am anticipating the release of my latest The New Regime music, Exhibit A on May 7th, and gearing up for Nine Inch Nails.
Have you ever had any doubts about dedicating the entirety of your life to music? How has that effected your growth as a person?
Fortunately, I have not had any doubts about dedicating my life to music. I started at about 8 years old, showed promise, and never looed back to be honest. Being involved with music for so long has made me an extremely career oriented and driven person.
You've worked with so many different bands, at this point of your career (Denver Harbor, Lost Prophets, Angels And Airwaves, Nine Inch Nails, Paramore and so on). How does being in different bands affect you as a drummer? Obviously, you've worked with a fairly eclectic range of bands, but does each band change how you approach playing?
My approach doesn't necessarily change but the way I play does. The main difference to how I play with a band depends on whether I'm a member of the band or hired on as a drummer. When you're a member you're there to do “your thing” and as a hired musician I view my job as being a human robot. I love both. But I must say that everybody I've played with encourages me to “play like me” which is nice but I think its important to know what you're there to do.
Also, is there anything that you haven't seen on tour at this stage?
If you're referring to any sort of crazy behavior, I luckily haven't dealt with much. I'm extremely boring!
Tell me about The New Regime. How did it come about?
I started writing music as The New Regime in 2008. The idea came about for a few different reasons. First of all, I had picked up multiple instruments through the years and could play them well. Secondly, I grew very frustrated having to wait around and depend on other people. I figured if I could push myself over the shyness of singing, I could be in charge of my own domain and that's how The New Regime began.
Why have you decided to not utilize any other musicians for The New Regime?
While I'm sure it seems extremely ego-maniacal, The New Regime is supposed to be exactly what I want and the way to accomplish that is for me to do everything myself. I don't play other instruments on the albums because I can, I do it because I play them well and am able to do exactly what I want. I honestly view The New Regime's music as a composer would view his music. I write everything but actually have the luxury of being able to perform it all myself. While this might sound pretentious I also see it from the perspective of a painter. A painter usually wouldn't finish half of something and let other people get their brushes on it. But that's just me.
What was the lyrical inspiration behind Exhibit A? What themes do you deal with on the record?
The approach for the lyrics on 'Exhibit A' was to compliment the moods set by the music. I wanted to paint pictures with words so the lyrics could be both descriptive yet abstract. Some of the lyrics though are pretty self-explanatory and I try not to give too much away.
What was the process behind Exhibit A? Is it a hard process working on it alone and recording everything yourself?
It isn't a difficult process doing everything by myself but you can imagine there are many stages before reaching a final product. Some songs would either start in an organic fashion by completing a structure with just a guitar, piano, and vocals, and some songs would be experimented on from section to section until it was complete.
How does Exhibit A mark a change from Coup and Speak Through The White Noise?
To me as the writer I think it's a smooth evolution but to the listener it may seem pretty different. I think I've taken facets of The New Regime and stretched them further apart from each other. The organic as well as electronic elements have become more present but at the same time I'd say I have the heavier and more mellow sides of The New Regime clearly laid out on 'Exhibit A'.
How much has working with all these other bands effected The New Regime?
All of the bands I've worked with have helped introduce The New Regime to their fan bases which is something that's invaluable to me. In terms of having an effect on me musically I'd say Trent and the NIN catalogue have taught me quite a bit. It's been a whole world for me to study, which is great.
Was working in the studio for Paramore and Exhibit A very different?
Entirely different! Playing on Paramore was so much fun and I had the best time with those guys. But the experience as a hired drummer and as a writer for your own material are entirely different. One is providing something to suit other peoples' needs and make them happy and the other is to create something from the ground up that I'm in charge of. However, both are extremely fun.
What was your contribution to the new Paramore album?
I played drums on the album, some piano, and maybe some back up vocals here and there. When I had stepped in for pre-production with Paramore, they already had their songs complete and just wanted to play everything through with a live drummer as opposed to the programmed drums they had for demos. I was encouraged to try quite a few things, but they definitely had a very clear idea of what they wanted. I was there to execute and try some new things from time to time.
How was the process behind Paramore for you?
The process of recording drums for the fourth Paramore album was tons of fun. I remember being impressed with how solid they were as well how different the new material was. They really branched out in various directions which was fun to witness. I'm very proud of my playing on the album and I can honestly say that I made very good friends as a result of that experience.
What is the experience of playing shows with Paramore like? The reaction to the new record has been so all-consuming, how has that been to deal with when you're playing shows?
Paramore has a large and energetic fan base so as you can imagine the shows were extremely fun. The set lists covered a ton of ground so there were a fair share of up tempo stuff, slower songs, straight ahead pop-rock type stuff and all of those are especially fun for a drummer. They're very energetic on stage and I think we all fed off of each other which you can't beat for a band on stage doing their thing.
How has getting back in the swing of Nine Inch Nails again been? Are you looking forward to the tour?
I'm really excited about Nine Inch Nails. Its a different kind of beast that I enjoy being a part of and I can't wait for what's in store. I love the thoroughness of everything so rehearsals and preparation, as well as the shows of course should be fantastic.
What equipment do you usually use?
Recently, I have switched over to Q Drum Co. drums and have actually become a co-owner in the company. They are great drums built for the task at hand and I've been with them for about 5 months now. Aside from that I'll have some electronic trickery for NIN. Now I'm not exactly sure if you asked about equipment specific to my live setup or just in general but I'll go ahead and say that I have a gear hoarding problem spanning guitars, basses, amps for both, pedals, synths, recording equipment, everything. BUT, I use it all and it everything comes in extremely handy for the creative and recording process for all things The New Regime.
How do you decide whether you're interested in working with a band? What leads to the decision?
First things first, I have to like the people. I have fun playing drums for all different sorts of bands and music but if I don't like the people, or most of them for that matter, then there's no point. For example, with Paramore I was only supposed to play drums on the album and really didn't think about playing live at all, but we got along so well that it seemed like we should try to play as much as possible together before I had to take off for other commitments.
You're incredibly young for an artist who has achieved so much. Does that pressure on you to be bigger and better with every project you work with?
Not at all. If pressure comes from anywhere its from what I demand from myself and I wouldn't even call that pressure, I'd call it drive and ambition.
Where do you go from here? You've done so many amazing things with your career, but how do you plan to develop as an artist?
No matter how much I've done its not nearly enough for me. I always want to keep moving forward. As much as I love playing drums I feel that The New Regime is the true representation of what I am as a musician and a writer so I always need to be growing that. I want to do as much as humanly possible with The New Regime and won't stop till its achieved.
What's been the proudest moment of your career so far?
I couldn't narrow down a single moment but I'd say being in NIN at 20 was quite an honor. Most recently I got my first cover of a drum magazine, RHYTHM, which is a serious honor as well. All good things, but I try to focus on the future so I probably don't let myself enjoy certain things as much as I should.
If you've made it this far thank you for reading. Exhibit A, go get it! I won't let you down. You can purchase it here.