Multi-instrumentalist, Ilan Rubin is a hardworking individual and there’s no doubt that he’s accomplished many things alongside his music career. Working with bands such as Nine Inch Nails, Paramore and Angels and Airwaves has given him plenty of opportunities to learn the ropes of creating and writing his own music. With his solo music project being under the name of The New Regime, we talk to him about his latest release of Exhibit B, the inspirations behind the record and the story of how he realised the importance of being a vocalist and being able to write his own lyrics.
So you wrote, produced and played every instrument on your latest release, Exhibit B. What has been your biggest learning curve so far since undertaking The New Regime music project?
The biggest learning curve for me was becoming a vocalist. When I first started singing, I was very shy. With every release that I’ve done, I feel like the vocals have gotten noticeably better.
Were you not a vocalist in the beginning of your music career? ‘Cause you started playing drums when you were younger right?
Yeah, I started playing drums at eight years old; guitar and bass at sixteen. It wasn’t until I was about eighteen when I realised that I could play all these things but the one thing that was most important – I wasn’t doing yet and that was singing. It was the missing piece that allowed me to do everything myself.
So how did the sound develop for this record and what were your inspirations behind it?
Well, it depends – with Exhibit A and Exhibit B, rather than sitting down and figuring out what kind of album I wanted to do, it was more of a collection of songs that I kinda put out at different times. The sound really came about from doing what I felt was best for the songs themselves. The songs were written on guitar, vocals and piano and then in my head, I figured I couldn’t imagine what kind of production I thought would be most suitable for these songs so that’s how I went about it.
In terms of inspiration – really from my usual influences but I think I got a lot of inspiration from the instruments themselves and from new guitars and synths and just tools that I had in my disposal. I get a lot of ideas from experimenting so I think the inspiration just came from me and the instruments that I was playing with in the past.
I was listening to Exhibit B and I found there was a sort of Radiohead influence. Is that band part of your sound influence in terms of your music?
Yeah absolutely. I do like them very much. I mean the songs are great but also the production as well. I think that is something that has been a part of an influence for me since the beginning of The New Regime.
How did you find the overall recording process as a whole?
I love it. The only problem with the recording process is that by the time I’ve actually done with everything, the last thing I wanna do is listen to it. It’s an extremely lengthy process of recording every instrument myself, every vocal myself and by the time I’m done with listening to the mixes and mastering, I’m just incredibly sick of it. Regardless, I’m still proud but it’s just that sometimes, I need to step away from it for a bit.
I think there was only a year gap apart between the releases of Exhibit A and Exhibit B. How long did you work on the album for?
Well, I’m always writing so by the time I was pretty much done with Exhibit A, I had some pieces for Exhibit B also in the works. I like to basically plant a lot of seeds for songs simultaneously so I’ll be working on multiple songs at the same time in terms of writing and by the time I’m ready to record, it’s whenever I can to find the time. Before I went back with Nine Inch Nails in mid-2013, I got as much done or whenever I had a moment in time to actually go to the studio; I’d also get a lot done in a hotel room as well.
Besides the length of time making the album as a whole, what other challenges did you find when you were making Exhibit B?
I can’t say that I found any challenges to be honest with you. I write songs and when I have enough of them, I record them and put them out. I mean, I don’t like to force things so it’s not like I have a hard time writing music, you know. If it’s not coming to me, I move on to something else.
So do you write from personal experiences or was it sort of “in the moment” when you were writing the songs?
Lyrically, there are some songs based on past experience. Another thing that I like to do with lyrics – that’s when I started doing Exhibit A is, rather than telling stories or writing about past experience, I like painting pictures with words and kind of adding the vibe to the song with the lyrics. So, in terms of what they’re about, it’s something that’s open to interpretation.
With “Smokescreen”, it’s a song where I matched the mood of the music with pretty mysterious lyrics. Sometimes lyrics come to me and I know exactly what I wanna write about and sometimes they work together – it just depends on the song.
So as a musician, do you think it’s important to progressively try new things in order to maintain both creativity and passion?
Absolutely. I think you constantly need to be evolving from song to song and album to album because if you don’t, what’s the point? It get’s old very quickly. For example, “The Longing” is something that came about completely from experimentation and approaching the song brought me to a place where I had never been before. I mean, having a song with a very jazzy drum style is something that was different for me and unlike anything that I’d ever played before. It really got me out of my comfort zone and it so happens to be one of my favourite songs off the album.
So do you find as an artist, maturity plays a huge role in music? I know you started off in a band called Denver Harbor. How did that journey come along?
Yeah, it depends. In the first band that I played with, I was just the drummer, so in terms of writing, I didn’t really have much to do with it and if I had anything to do with the songs, it was more with arrangement – in which case, maturity was irrelevant. I mean, when I first started, I was so focused on music that lyrics were very into the backseat on my first album, Coup. I’m very proud of the songs that I’d written on that album – I mean, it was the first ten songs that I’d ever written and lyrically, I wasn’t saying much because it wasn’t important to me – music is what I focused on.
From that point forward, starting on my second album, Speak Through The White Noise and then Exhibit A and Exhibit B, I took a big interest in the lyrical importance and from that point forward, I was very proud that the lyrics were about something. The first album was just very vague and a vehicle for me to have words to sing to, so in that case, maturity played a part. I think musically, I’ve always been very mature so I haven’t done anything with The New Regime that makes me cringe, you know
That’s good that you’ve made progress in a lyrical sense because some musicians focus more on the music itself and I think that’s what you did in the beginning of your music journey.
Yeah absolutely. I mean, personally when I listen to music, I listen to the music and the vocalist and what they’re saying isn’t really important to me. I mean, I will appreciate great lyrics when they come but really, lyrics point out to me when they’re either really good or really bad. If a musician has great music and is singing well, I just kinda enjoy it, you know.
I found it really interesting that Exhibit B had a different perspective in terms of the open-ended lyrics.
Well, it’s something I’ve been focusing on a whole lot more and that oddly enough, kind of surprised me. Everybody listens to music differently and what they listen to is different so when people say that the most important part of music is the lyrics, it makes me wonder because that’s not even the musical part of music, you know. It’s great to get feedback like that as I kind of approached things with a different perspective, which I think has been very beneficial to the writing process.
I think it’s pretty cool that you’re also a multi-instrumentalist. In 2013-2014, while touring with Nine Inch Nails, you contributed to parts of bass, guitar and keyboards. How did it feel knowing that you were able to challenge yourself and showcase other talents to a live audience?
It was great fun and honestly, it wasn’t necessarily a challenge. I mean, I’ve been playing guitar and bass for over ten years and at that point, it was just a matter of what part of the song needed playing. It did really keep the live shows even more interesting and as much as I love playing drums – they’re so second nature to me. Being able to break up that extreme comfort while running around on stage and doing different things was a great experience and it benefited my performance so that kept things very, very interesting for me.
You also recently did the drums for the Haim/M83 Insurgent track, “Holes In The Sky”. How did that experience come about?
Well, I played drums on M83’s music that came out in another movie called Oblivion with Tom Cruisea couple of years ago so when it came time to be the drummer of another movie project, Anthony called me and I went in and recorded the song and that was that.
Did you see the track be played out in a particular scene of Oblivion?
I saw parts of the movie randomly on the airplane out all places. The drums would stick out to me and it’s just one of those things where you prepare and you record and then you kinda just forget about it and there’s nothing to listen to after that. There’s a big span of time that passes but when you hear it, you recognise your own playing.
So for someone that has worked with bands such as Angels and Airwaves, Paramore, Nine Inch Nails and Lostprophets, how have working with other bands shaped your progress as a musician?
Well, I mean going back to Lostprophets, I think my frustration with that was what really pushed me to sing so I could do everything myself. When it came to recording, the drums would always come first so once I finished my part, it’d be months and months for everybody else to complete their parts. I was always depending on people to do their thing and whenever everyone else was ready to write, record and tour. All these things made me very, very frustrated and that’s what pushed me to sing and pretty much start The New Regime initially.
In terms of other bands and what they have done to me as a songwriter, I mean, what I am as a musician and songwriter has evolved in itself because of my own music and I always wanna better myself and improve. With other bands, I do whatever is required for that project; so with Angels and Airwaves, it was a solid 50-50 collaboration with Tom [DeLonge] but none of those songs I would’ve written by myself and for myself – it was what was best for that project. We kind of met in a mutual place in terms of those songs; stuff that was out of his comfort zone and stuff that was out of my comfort zone and it’s something we’ve done a little different compared to the past Angels and Airwaves albums.
So how would you describe your music journey overall?
It’s been a lengthy one. I mean, I technically started when I was seven years old and now I’m twenty-six, so it’s been a slow but steady incline which is good and I can’t complain. I’m addicted to work so I feel best when I’m productive and moving towards a goal or completing goals so I’ve got to constantly push myself and accomplish things.
Exhibit B is available now