A Night With Nine Inch Nail's Ilan Rubin & His Current Project, The New Regime

By: Jura Daubenspeck

He may be known for his role as drummer for bands like Nine Inch Nails, Angels and Airwaves, and Paramore, but Ilan Rubin has reached impressive heights with his solo project The New Regime. The group just toured with Juliette Lewis last month, and is about to tour with The Cult, as well as Alice In Chains later this year.

 Ilan Rubin.

Ilan Rubin.

When it comes to alternative music, The New Regime does it different. What you hear on the album is purely Rubin’s work. But on tour, his music is translated to fit a three-piece band, which includes Danny Rubin (bass) and Hayden Scott (drums), taking live performances to a whole other level.

Last week, I had the chance to see The New Regime play at Larimer Lounge. The night opened up with Denver’s wilderness rock group Open to the Hound and indie natives Roommates, both of whom brought the energy up for the headlining group. The New Regime took to the stage, playing some of the music off Rubin’s recently-released EPs, 'Exhibit A' and 'Exhibit B'.

 The New Regime.

The New Regime.

Watching The New Regime, it was clear that all three band members are seasoned musicians, playing their fine-tuned instruments with ease and clarity. They had the ability to take a heavier tune and bring it down to an oozy blues feel, only to bring it back up for a powerful finish. You can tell that there has been an immense amount of sweat put into the hand-crafted intricacy of each song. Their explosive sound permeated through the lounge’s walls as Rubin shredded out some fan favorites including “We Rise, We Fall”, and also took it back a few decades, covering Jimi Hendrix’s “Spanish Castle Magic”.

I also got the chance to sit down with Rubin before his performance. During our casual curbside conversation, I got to hear about his current nationwide tour, the importance of classical music, and what it’s like playing with heavy hitters such as Muse, The Killers, and The Used. Here’s a bit of what Rubin and I chatted about:

Is this your first time playing at Larimer Lounge?

Yes, but we’re about to start touring with The Cult in a few days. The tour starts in New Hampshire, and being from San Diego, we thought we would book some shows along the way for fun. We’ve been here quite a few times with a few other bands. We’ve played in Denver possibly more times than any other city in the country, which is weird. But it’s a lot of fun. We’re playing here, then in Chicago, and soon we’re going to be touring with The Cult and Alice In Chains.

Sounds like you guys have some exciting months ahead of you.

Yes, and every time we come back to one of these cities, it’s as if we’re playing there for the first time. Because none of the audiences overlap. Before, we were here with The Joy Formidable at Ogden Theatre, and then [we were] at Bluebird Theater with The Used. And 2-3 other shows aside from that. Each band is so different that it’s a different audience. So it’s exciting to think about who from those shows may come out tonight.

Watch the new music video for The New Regime’s “We Rise, We Fall”:

So you are the frontman for all the music that you play. Are you playing with a band tonight?

There will be a band. So on the albums I write, play, and sing everything. Every note, harmony, and vocal you hear, I do in the studio. But I can only do so much while playing live. So it’s presented as a band. I play guitar and piano, and I have a bass player and drummer. My brother Danny is on bass, and the incredibly talented Hayden Scott is on drums. And what’s extra fun about it being a three-piece is that it’s as raw as can be, and portrays the same songs on the album, but in a different way.

 Rubin.

Rubin.

How did you get into music?

I first started off playing drums. Drums come second nature. I’ve played them more than I haven’t played them in my life. I started when I was 7 or 8 years old, and now I’m 28. I have two older brothers in music, and they urged me to get into it too. I realized every instrument has its forte. Drums [are the] greatest instrument at keeping rhythm and driving force, but [have] no melody or harmony. Guitar has harmony, melody, structure of song, but no bottom end. Bass has all bottom end, but nothing on top. Piano is the greatest instrument there is. It has all the musical range, and you can always find ways to play four parts or more with two hands. You can play the greatest amount of music on it with just one person. Classical music that has stuck around for so many years.

Can you elaborate on that?

I got into classical music when I was around 15. I have more classical music on my phone than anything else. You may find it odd that I like classical music most, but to me, as an art form and as a style of music, I think it does the best at covering all grounds, from emotion, [to] technicality, [to] virtuosity… It covers those grounds better than any other type of music.

Do you channel the stuff you’ve learned in classical music into your music now?

Absolutely. I’m self-taught, and music is all I do and it’s all I’ve ever done. I’m fairly disciplined. And for us tonight, aside from the show and the city, it’s going to be different for us because we’ll have the piano out. I haven’t played in a long time, so that will be a new element.

So when you play the piano tonight, will it be classical style piano, or will you add any extra effects to it?

Very good question. The majority of it will be piano; maybe [with] some echo on it, because I love the sound of echo. I use that a lot in the song “Enjoy The Bitterness”. That’s just one important sonic element of the song. But there are only three of us, so we’ll have to find out how to make the most amount of noise and sound as possible. Fortunately, with the keyboard and stage piano, I can blend in two sounds at once. So the top will be your standard piano, but beneath will be a very heavy sub bass. And that’s my intention. Technology helps you do the parts of three all at once.

Will you be playing some new music tonight?

I’ll be playing the most recent stuff that I’ve released. I have new music that I’ve been recording that we will not be performing. But we’ll be doing a bit of everything that I’ve already released, with an emphasis on the last two EPs.

Are you still involved with other bands, such as Paramore, Angels and Airwaves, or Nine Inch Nails?

Paramore gets mentioned often, understandably so. And the extent to that was that I played drums on the last album, and I did some touring with them. But that was pretty much it. I had to stop working with Paramore because Nine Inch Nails was getting back together. It was a transitional thing. Originally, I was just supposed to play drums on the [Paramore] album, but we got along so well and they had tour dates and needed a drummer. So they asked me, and I was flattered and really enjoyed it. They were great people and have been great friend since. But I’ve been with NIN since 2009, so when it was time to get that up and running again, around 2013, I joined back in.

I’ve noticed that you guys have a lot of exciting collaborations in the past few months, like Juliette Lewis.

So there’s no confusion, you say collaborations, but it’s just touring. But yes, all incredible opportunities. I toured with Juliette Lewis a few weeks ago, and that was so much fun. We’re going out with The Cult in a few days, and then we’re joining back up with Alice In Chains. And I say ‘going back’ because we did three shows with them in the Northwest (Portland, Seattle, Spokane), and they invited us back out, which was extremely flattering. So between all these shows, we’ll be out for about a month.

That’s awesome. What’s it like playing with these big name bands?

We’ve played with so many different kinds of bands. We’ve played some shows with Muse in Europe, which were phenomenal. We were invited to play some shows with them in Mexico City [too]. We also played with The Killers in San Diego, and were with The Used for about three months. And they’ve all been fantastic opportunities. We’ve been able to play as much as we want to play, and we’re just happy to do it and hope that things keep lining up the way they have been.

What’s been your favorite band to play with so far?  

I feel the best fit musically has been with Muse. When we played those shows, I thought, ‘Okay, their fan base will gets it’. And it was awesome. There are times when there are bands who have those diehard fans, and they don’t care who is opening, or don’t want to hear anything that sounds different in any way to that band. But Muse’s audience seemed to be up for anything. And because it was a great musical fit, it went off very well, which was really pleasing to me. You can get great opportunities to tour, but when you play for somebody else’s fan base, you never know. And when it goes great, there’s nothing better. But there are few things worse than when you know that someone’s fans do not care, and would prefer we weren’t even there because they came for this certain band. But it’s understandable.

For every experience like that, I’m sure there are other experiences that are so positive where you feel even more alive and fulfilled.

Exactly. You can have a great show followed by a horrible show. I’m always confident we’re going to play well. We put a lot of work and time into it, and know the material. We’re great performers and we play well. But there are so many other factors. It could be the show, it could be the people, who knows. It could be a language barrier. We’re always grateful for the opportunities, but you have to have an iron will of sorts. Because if you don’t have the mindset, you could be easily discouraged. Things have been far more positive than negative for us. But, you have those moments.

Any other big announcements?

I’m constantly working, either always on tour, or always writing when I’m home. We were home for two and a half weeks between the Juliette Lewis show and tonight’s show. And I wrote and recorded three songs that I’m very happy with. It’s a matter of making the most of each day.

That it is. Keep up with both Ilan Rubin, and The New Regime here.

-Jura

All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artist featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.