The New Regime consists of Ilan Rubin, Ilan Rubin, and oh yeah, what is that name…. yes, Ilan Rubin. Now focusing fully on his multi-part one man band, the former touring drummer for Nine Inch Nails and The Lost Prophets sat down with us to talk new album, beginnings, tour, music, and the importance of a drummer.
Tell us about the beginnings of the New Regime, and how did this project start for you?
It started at a point when I was still in a band called Lost Prophets. I was with them for a couple years, and at that time we were working on their fourth album, The Betrayed, and there was just a lot of dead time in between. I’d been able to play a lot of instruments for quite a while , and was good at it, the only thing I hadn’t done was singing. I just got to a point where I felt it’d be a lot more productive if I just jumped over that hurdle, and started writing my own songs. That way I could do everything by myself so that’s what I ended up doing. I had a few songs put together, and just leaked one out virally not saying who or what it was, and the response was pretty positive so that just gave me the confidence to keep pursuing it. I put out my first 1o songs on an album called The Coup, and that’s how the New Regime started.
What are some of your musings on the finished product of the second album Speak Through the White Noise?
I’m extremely proud of it to be honest. It’s very good and very different, and without downgrading my first album, this one is leagues above it as it should be so I’m very proud of it in all aspects. The songwriting,playing, vocals, harmonies, experimentation. It’s very in depth, and thorough, and I think it’s a quality that could really be appreciated.
How do you feel the new album is stylistically different than the songs presented on The Coup?
Well with the first album, I was very conscious of writing 10 different songs stylistically. They all sound like the same band, but I tried to do 10 different things, so in the future, I could do whatever I wanted, and it wouldn’t be a bum out to people. I mean, a lot of bands, they start with a certain sound, and then by their third or fourth album, any fans they’ve aquired are not really into what they’ve evolved into. So, I wanted to open up 10 stylistic doors, and then expand on those in the future. So, Speak Through the White Noise is more focused on expanding on some of those styles found on The Coup. It’s really hard for me to categorize the music because there is a lot that goes into it, and it goes in so many different places. Nothing super abstract or weird, but there’s a lot of big stuff, lots of mellow music, more rock, more classically influenced stuff. This album really does cover a lot of ground.
Yeah, you can definitely hear all of that, and even the song structures themselves bounce around between what would be considered genre specific.
Yeah definitely, I agree with you on that.
There seems to be a central idea lyrically on STTWN of being over stimulated by media. Can you elaborate on that?
I feel like when answering this question, I need to watch my words a bit because it can be misconstrued. The tone of the album lyrically is not political, so I just want to clarify that up front. I’m not really the kind of person who watches the news all the time, but it is on pretty often. I feel like most of what is shown and seen is played over. and over consistently, and I know many people who all they do is watch the news. So, if all you do is watch the news, and all you’re hearing about is how things are breaking down, and how everything is terrible, I feel like you can’t help but feel paranoid about not knowing what’s going to happen next. I’m not saying the news is a bad thing, but you have something that’s just supposed to informative, and it really is instead a form of entertainment. Then of course, there’s certain things that maybe aren’t large catastrophic events, but get blown way out of proportion with a panicked urgency when they shouldn’t be for purposes of entertainment.
In the studio, the sole member of New Regime is pretty much just you. I really liked the notes you added to different pieces of tracks on your Sound Cloud account. It gives all this really cool background and insight into your thought process, and especially helps to understand the classical elements behind the songs. What is your writing and recording process like?
Oh great thanks, I’m glad you checked out, and enjoyed the Sound Cloud notes. Well, I write it in it’s most bare bones format, which is just chords and melody. That can be written on the guitar, or the piano, it just depends on what kind of song it is. Every now and then, I’ll write a song on the piano, and on the album it’ll be a guitar based song, so those are my two primary writing instruments. Once I have all the sections, and the melody taken care of, I envision what I want all of the other elements to do. Mainly things like the drum beats, the synth lines, the harmonies, or whatever else that’s going to go over the top of it. I always really need to lock down the drum lines because those are always the first things to be recorded. I don’t spend a lot of time figuring out the parts, I’ll maybe play through it a couple times, and then record multiple times just so I have some alternate ideas in case my mind changes about something later, and to have a little bit of variety. This is so two days later, I don’t have just one thing, and say to myself, ‘Oh shit I should have done this instead,’ and by that time, wanting to change it becomes a pain in the ass. So yeah, once I get the drums down, then it just bounces around from instrument to instrument. I usually go rhythm guitars, then bass, vocals, maybe redo the bass to compliment some vocal lines or whatever, and then I’ll add synths, and all the harmonies. I just keep piling it on, and then it will get to a point where I have everything that I’ve thought of, but it isn’t as complete as I’ve envisioned, so then I just tinker around with different instruments until I add those little elements that complete the song to me. Basically, a whole lot of jumping around.
With just one person, I can kind of understand how that would go. You can pretty much jump around to wherever you need to go within the song, since you’re the only one working on it.
Yeah exactly, I have to say that I do really enjoy the experience of doing everything by myself. It’s not from an egotistical view or anything like that, it’s just I feel like in bands when someone has an idea, they have to try and communicate that idea with somebody else, and whether that person understands what is being said is completely up in the air. This way, I know exactly what I want. I think about it, I do it, I either like it or I don’t, and I just keep going until I’m happy with it.
The video for ‘Remission of Guilt’ plays on this whole idea of you being a one man band, it was released in between your two albums on it’s own. Where does that song fit?
The idea for that song I had come up with while recording Speak Through the White Noise. Even after recording all day, I would sort of just sit down and write. It was an idea that I knew I was going to complete, but it didn’t fit within the album. So, it was a good idea in the sense of putting something out in between Coup and STTWN, because as you can tell, there was quite a while in between those two just because of all the time that goes into thinking about how it was going to be released, who was going to release it, and just different stuff like that. So, basically it was just a one off. It will probably end up being a part of something eventually if I keep releasing more one offs sporadically, and then maybe eventually compiling them, but for now it’s just it’s own thing.
The way I came to know your name and musicianship are you were the touring drummer for Nine Inch Nails starting with the Lights In the Sky Tour. I’m one of those crazies who went to a million shows, so luckily, that means I got to see you play quite a few times. How did you come to be a part of that, and what is the best thing you feel you walked away with from that experience?
The way I came to be a part of Nine Inch Nails is kind of interesting, I guess. It was one of those right place at the right time sort of things.When I was in Lost Prophets, we played the Redding and Leeds festival right before NIN in 2007. The guy who was teching for NIN was a good friend of mine, Jeremy, and I think he’d told Trent to watch me play just in case he needed a new drummer. It’s pretty apparent that there have been numerous people in NIN. So, Trent watched, and then when Josh Freese had announced that he was leaving, I basically got an email from Trent asking if I was interested. I flew out to a soundcheck audition somewhere on the east coast, and I got the part, obviously, and was a part of it from then on out. As far as the best thing I got from that, playing in NIN is quite an experience, and it’s a great accomplishment. It’s hard to pinpoint everything, but I really love the work ethic involved in working towards perfection, and making sure every show was fantastic. I also learned to play 2 ½ hour sets, which was a big step up from anything I had been doing in the past as far as the organization involved. Something unique to the Nails experience as well is when I joined, not only did Josh leave, but Allesandro Cortini (keys, synth effects) left as well, so it had been the only time NIN had been a four piece, and we all kind of had to assume responsibilities from the empty slots. So anytime I wasn’t playing drums, I was playing keys, or piano, or something. That was a lot of fun, it broke things up, and made things even more exciting. I really enjoyed it.
You have a real force to your playing, and it took all the real loud tracks like things off Broken, and some stuff off the Downward Spiral, to a new level with that intensity. It was really fun to hear, and watch.
Thank you, I really do try to put a lot into the performance. If I’m not really tired by the end of the show, I feel like I didn’t put in all my effort into it. It was really cool to be up there.
So if Trent called you up tomorrow, do you think you would hit the road with him again for another round? I’m just checking since he like to tease about touring these days, just seeing who’s down.
Oh I am down. I am definitely down, of course, I’d love to.
Both your drumming with NIN, and your guitar playing in the live presentation of The New Regime are both stylistically unique. Like many elements in your music, they’re hard to place. To have a better understanding without straightforwardly using the word influences, who have been some musicians that have had a large impact on the way you play?
I feel like every time I get asked questions about influences, I sound like a broken record because I always list the same bands and the same people over and over, but let’s go over it again because I am that boring. My favorite bands can be summed up with Led Zeppelin, Queen, and The Beatles. I have many influences, but those three are present in everything I do. I would have to say that the most undying influence to me is Zeppelin because each person in that band is my favorite at whatever instrument they played.I could talk about them for the rest of of my life. Jon Bonham is the best drummer. As a guitar player, Jimmy Page was amazing.I just love everything he did. His choice of chords, his writing, his riffs were the greatest of all time.There’s also Jeff Buckley, Radiohead, The Police, and I’ve been getting into Depeche Mode 20 years late. Aside from bands, classical composers are a major influence on what I do. If I had to pick a favorite, which is hard to do, it would probably be Beethoven because of how much ground he covered. Emotionally, to me he’s the most varied out of all the composers. I also love Bach, Schubert, Chopin, and many others. I just pick up things here and there from different people as far as who influences my style.
What are you currently listening to?
I’m currently listening to Depeche Mode, I’ve torn Violator apart right now. It’s kind of cliché I know, since it’s their most popular album, but when I asked what to pick up to get into Depeche Mode, that was recommended the most. I can’t help but be late on everything for a couple reasons; One being most of what’s good happened before I was alive, or while I was very young and too young to appreciate it. And two, the older I get the more open I become to listening to multiple things at once. For my entire life up until two years ago, I would obsess over one band at a time for about a few years at a time before even getting my hands on something else, so I feel I’ve matured in the sense that I can bring more in at a time, and then I’m ready for something new. I’ve also been listening to quite a bit of Oasis as well if that adds some variety.
It’s really cool to go back and get into a band because you can start where you want to start, and you’re free from that whole bias of being there from the beginning. You just begin listening, and go where you want to go within they’re entire catalogue, it’s refreshing.
Exactly, that was what was great about getting into Radiohead. I had their whole catalogue at my fingertips so I dug in with The Bends and Ok computer, but then I was able to just jump back and forth between Kid A, Hail To the Thief, and Amnesiac. You can just have all their different phases in front of you, and it’s cool because I’m sure when Kid A came out it was quite a shock, and pretty unexpected, but because I had it right there, I could witness the evolution in a matter of hours as opposed to years.
I got a chance to watch you at SXSW this year, it was awesome to finally see you play this project live because I knew you as a drummer, and then I got to know you as a guitar player.
Thanks for coming out to the SXSW shows, it was a little rough to be honest with you, I was kind of disappointed with the experience from a show aspect. I loved the week out there in Austin, but I was dealing with Laryngitis, which you probably noticed at the show.
I actually didn’t at all, I was there for the Thursday daytime show, and you guys sounded great to me.
Oh okay, well you might have at the show two days before. I’ve lost my voice plenty of times in my life, but it usually comes back two or three days later, but in this case, my voice was out for two weeks, and I was really worried. I called the doctor and he said that I should definitely cancel the shows, and I told him no that wasn’t an option, so it was one of things were I had to tell myself that I was just going to have to go onstage, and hope for the best. It was pretty shitty at that first show, and of course, that’s the one that was filmed, and then at the show you saw two days later, I guess I could kind of handle it better.
Was the band you had up there with you at SXSW a temporary or permanent thing?
The two guys at the front with me, one is my brother, and the other guy is a friend of mine that I was in a band with about 8 years ago, so that’s a more stable. The drummer was a temporary situation. So, I’m in the process of finding another one. It’s a real pain in the ass to be honest with you, but it’s a necessity, you kind of need a drummer.
Yeah, drummers are usually important. Have you seen certain bands live that sound great on their album, and then you see them live and they’re strumming a guitar here and there, and singing along to a back track? It’s hard to watch sometimes when you’re used to a certain level of actual involvement on stage in live music. Crazy idea isn’t it, actually playing on stage?
Yeah, that’s a really weird thing to me. It’s weird that these days, people can put together music that sounds very polished and clean, and well played, and then you see them live, and you realize it wasn’t coming from them. I feel like they think they need a guitar to look like they’re doing more than just singing to a back track, but really they aren’t guitar players. It’s like either learn to play the guitar, or leave it alone, put it away. Also, bands that walk on stage and plug in a laptop, and sing to it which is kind of ridiculous to me. It’s like maybe people should just put on their ipod headphones, and watch, and it will be probably be better for them. With New Regime live, I also want to bring back the jamminess in songs, and I don’t mean like the hour long stoner jam or anything, but just that little element of improvisation. Extending little sections here and there. It’s kind of a lost thing. I feel like all the bands of the ‘60’s and ‘70’s at least had that ability to do it occasionally, and now it doesn’t really work that way which is unfortunate.
Absolutely! Viva la Improv! Currently my favorite thing in the whole world is seeing bands that I already love to hear in my headphones improv it up on stage. It creates this whole new dimension of listening experience on a completely different level from their albums.
Exactly, I’m glad you agree. I think it’s really important to have the live experience be somewhat different from the albums, it keeps things interesting, and from going stale.
What can we expect next from New Regime? Any plans for a full on tour?
At the moment, the gears have definitely been shifted to finding the proper tour, and putting together a band for that tour. So, something that’s the most beneficial, and makes the most sense. I’m very eager to get these songs out in a live atmosphere. As far as the song writing is concerned, I’m constantly doing that. This new album just came out, but I already have about 14 ideas that could evolve into 14 more songs. I’m going to go about it differently this time. From before the current two albums were recorded, I had a vision as to what I wanted those albums to be in the end. I think this time, I’m just going to write what comes to me, and worry about piecing it together later.
Another tour, and more material sounds great. Thanks for your time!
Great, thank you.