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Exclusive Q & A: Ilan Rubin

The Nine Inch Nails, Angels and Airwaves and New Regime musician speaks.

Robert Frezza College Media Network

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Ilan Rubin is wearing many hats these days.

As drummer for Nine Inch Nails, drummer for Angels and Airwaves, and fronting his own band, The New Regime, it’s amazing he has time to do everything.

“I guess I’m doing a lot but it’s always in music. I have a plenty of time to write and record in between touring and rehearsing. I figure out what my time is best suited for and go for it,” the drummer says.

Rubin plays guitar, drums, keyboard, and sings as well. He had the time to chat while on the road with Angels and Airwaves in San Diego.

Ilan Rubin. (Image: Oliver Halfin)

CMN: You’ve done a lot in such a short period of time. How did you get on Nine Inch Nails’ radar in the first place? What did you learn from Trent and the band?

I was playing just before the Nine Inch Nails set at the Leeds Festival in Reading, England in 2008. He saw me play and the following year when he needed a drummer and he got in touch with me via a mutual friend. Here we are ten years later.

I appreciate how professional he is and how he runs such a tight ship. I love that about him and playing with Nine Inch Nails. It’s a fantastic environment.

CMN: When did you realize you were born to do this? You play drums, guitar, bass, keyboard, and are on vocals for The New Regime. When did you know you wanted to front a band full time?

The band fronting came down the line. I played the drums when I was seven or eight years old. I did have that early obsession with music that never went away. I quickly came to see that I wanted to do this with my life except that it wasn’t a naïve childish ambition. I received the proper support from my parents. They instilled in me that this is a career and professionalism is important. 

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For the first four or five years I only played drums, but I had access to guitar and bass because I had two older brothers who played those instruments. It was a very similar experiment from one instrument to the next. I would practice, practice, practice. I had an obsession with classical music when I was fifteen as well so I dove into piano. A few years later, I’ve realized it was a shame that I know how to play all these instruments, but I was missing the most important piece of the puzzle and that was singing.

As you sing, you write. I grew tired on waiting on other people and how unprofessionalism they were, so that’s how I got involved with singing and how the New Regime came about.

(Image: Oliver Halfin)

CMN: You are putting out four EPs but it’s one project called Heart Mind Body and Soul.

It’s sixteen songs. Rather than releasing it all in one shot and expect people to listen a double album worth of material, I’m releasing it in quarters. 

CMN: Your music and lyrics are very raw. Do you reach down in a dark place to put it together?

Sometimes. I think what’s important is what your conveying and what the listener gets out of it. A lot of it is personal and most of it is fictional. I like to write many songs at the same time. If they are all coming from the same place mentally and emotionally, I kind of feel redundant. So I step in and out of where I am at any given moment. 

CMN: You give hope that rock music is not dead. What is your outlook of rock in the next year and the future?

I hope it improves. I think music is really shitty right now and the reason why rock music took a massive hit is, besides that music is being less and less creative as time goes by, people have shifted more drastically towards being ‘in’. You have one behemoth that everyone is focusing on right now. Then finally tastes shift into something else. As a whole, in terms of popular music, everything has become far less creative. When everybody is looking for the same thing, and that same thing is not rock, what chance does something great really have to break through everything else?

CMN: How do you translate your intricate music in front of a live audience?

You really have to focus on what is on the album and find a way to bring those elements live. You have endless tracks and overdubs, but I have introduced the New Regime as a rock trio, and with that are some limitations but there’s also a different facet that come across in terms with rawness and power. There are some bands that subscribe to the philosophy that their live show has to sound exactly like their album. There’s another line of thought that the album is album and the show is the show. 

CMN: “Do Right By Me” is the current single for The New Regime. Can you tell me more about it?

It’s about a lack of communication in a relationship. The melody and lyrics came together fluidly. I love the groove of it. 

CMN: Are you exactly where you want to be in your career?

I’m always never content of where I am. It has its pros and cons. I’m always looking towards the next thing always.

If you obsess over singers and bands, and are one of those people who make a playlist for every occasion, join CMN’s Music Journalism Course and get real-time experience, intense feedback on your writing, exposure to music industry insiders, and a great place to display build your portfolio. Get all the details on the Music Journalism Course here.

Robert Frezza is a music journalist based out of NYC. He has interviewed Lady Gaga, Kings of Leon, Garbage, Nine Inch Nails, among many more. He enjoys interviewing musicians.

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