The New Regime’s Ilan Rubin Talks ‘Exhibit A’ EP, ‘Daydream’ Single + Balancing Instruments
Ilan Rubin is a man of many musical talents and most of them are put on display in his longtime band the New Regime. Having already released two full-length albums under the moniker, the multi-instrumentalist decided to break up his wealth of recent creativity into a series of EPs, with the ‘Exhibit A’ disc just arriving in stores and ‘Exhibit B’ currently a work-in-progress that’s expected later this year.
Rubin, who also is the drummer for Nine Inch Nails, spoke with Loudwire about the New Regime, handling most of the instrumental work on the disc and some of the standout cuts on the new ‘Exhibit A’ EP. Check out the interview below:
We know you mostly as a drummer, but ‘Exhibit A’ has some solid guitar work and some really moody bluesy stuff and electronics thrown in. It seems like you’re having a great time putting it together. Is that the case?
Yeah, it’s definitely the most satisfying thing for me to do. There’s nothing like coming up with an idea and seeing it through top to bottom.
‘Exhibit A’ is the first in a series of ‘Exhibit’ EPs. I know it’s a brand new world out there for music, but what made you decide to take this direction in releasing your material?
Well I have two full lengths out as the New Regime and when I was writing those I had a very clear idea of what I wanted to accomplish on both of those. So rather than releasing a third full-length, I had more than enough material for one, so what I wanted to do was just put more music out than would fit on one album and that way I could span the next year-and-a-half or so with a couple of releases.
I just really wanted to do something less formal than an album but a little bit more formal than an EP. And I don’t know why, but the term “exhibits” came to me out of nowhere. And it’s one of those things that if I ever want to release something that’s not a full album, I can just keep adding to that sequence. So we’ve got ‘Exhibit A’ coming out and then I’m working on ‘Exhibit B’ which will be out late this year.
So it’s still a work in progress. I was just wondering how you broke it up with which songs went with which EP.
Well, like I said, I had more than an album’s worth, so I picked the eight that went best together and I didn’t really focus on the songs as a whole. I just finished each song individually and then put them together to see how they would flow later. So I just picked eight songs that flowed together best and then went about it that way.
Watching your video preview, it’s pretty impressive to see you not only on drums, but guitar, bass, piano, programming … Is there an instrument that you prefer to start from when working on a track or is each one different?
When I write, I either start with guitar and vocals or piano and vocals. It’s one of those things where I just sit down with the instrument and mumble along with it and it just starts that way. And sometimes I will experiment differently, like for instance ‘Daydream,’ I started acoustically with a vocal then it started to take on this new life where I did the programming on top and put it all together. So it usually starts very organically or I just start experimenting and teasing things together until I have a song at the end of the day.
You mentioned ‘Daydream’ and it’s got that gritty and bluesy feel. Is that an influence for you stylistically?
As far as the bluesy influence, I suppose that would come from a couple of my favorite bands — Led Zeppelin are my favorite band and to me it kind of has a Jimmy Page-type feel or rhythm to the way it was played. But I do suppose that any blues influence I do have is more on the British side of things that is more traditional.
But that song, I had that riff for a while. It’s a very simple riff and it’s something where I put it away and it was something I wanted to get to eventually and out of nowhere, the melody just started coming to me and I just put it together and the guitar part and it just built itself from there. It’s one of those things where it just came together really quickly, especially after I programmed the loop and got that taken care of. It really came together rather seamlessly.
And ‘This Is a New World,’ that’s such a mesmerizing track and easy to get caught up in. Can you talk about what it was like to put that song together?
Well that song was me writing the chord progression on a classical guitar. It’s one of those things where I was finger picking and the mellow chord progression just sounded right and perfect on a nylon string. I’d never really recorded a nylon string stuff before for New Regime, but it was one of those things that now I have I dabble in some classical stuff. So it sounded particularly good on a nylon, so it was one of those thing where I figured the whole song should be very mellow. So that’s why it ended up being one of the more mellow tones I’ve done.
I play the drums on it, but it ended up being almost a hypnotic drum beat almost. And because the melody was so laid back, I just wanted to set a mood listening to that song. And in the middle of that song, I just like to bring a lot of dynamics to a song and so while it is very mellow and slow building, I really wanted it to explode in the middle, which it does in the bridge, and then bring it back down. And that’s kind of the way that the song goes.
I know you love the technology and creating modifications to the instruments you use. Do you have a favorite creation to work with?
Well there is a pedal that I’ve built that I love. It’s a clone of this sort of fuzz pedal called a Jordan Bosstone. I don’t what it is about the pedal. When you play it through an amp, it’s fine, it’s a little noisy, but there’s something about it when you plug it in direct … What I love to do is just skip the amp and record through a pre-amp straight into the computer. And it has this really nice sound and where you can find that on the album is basically the whole, well one of the main parts for ‘No Traces’ and a couple of little fuzzy things like that. Anytime you hear a really in-your-face pretty sound, it comes from that. It’s a little clone. It’s like a little $50 piece that I put together and I will always use it for those sorts of things. It has a very Cream sound, ‘Wheel of Fire’-sound, so it’s a nice texture that I like to visit.
I know your schedule is picking up with Nine Inch Nails, but will you have the opportunity to get out on tour with The New Regime?
I would love to, but as you said, I am in Nine Inch Nails world at the moment. But as soon as I have enough time, that is what I would love to do more than anything.
It’s been great to see The New Regime build over the years, and I wanted to get your take on the progression of this group and where it stands now.
At this point, I’m extremely happy with it. I’m so proud of ‘Exhibit A’ and even though it’s coming out, I’m already halfway through ‘Exhibit B’ and I’m so involved with finishing that up, but I love playing drums, right? But I have big goals and ambitions for The New Regime. It is the place where I have all the control and I do what I do. So I feel like in terms of The New Regime, I can grow it in some respects while playing drums with all these other people.
But as far as being able to go out on tour in the more typical sense, I have one hand tied behind my back because I can’t fulfill those commitments at the moment. So it’s one of those things where I’m eager to have that time to put into the touring aspect. In 2011, we were able to tour for about three months and it was great playing to new crowds of people who had no idea who I was as a drummer and they were just watching the band and they were walking out buying merch and enjoying the show. That was very satisfying in a different way because there was no preconceived notion and it was just based on the band itself. Whenever I can put the time in to do the proper touring, I’ll be happier to see the rate that it grows at.
Our thanks to The New Regime’s Ilan Rubin for the interview. The ‘Exhibit A’ EP is currently available for purchase here. Stay tuned for part two of our interview with Rubin in which he discusses the return of Nine Inch Nails and his work with Paramore and Angels & Airwaves, as well.