When Nine Inch Nails embark on their 46-date comeback tour next month, they’ll be taking along a drummer who was just a year old when “Pretty Hate Machine” put the group on the alt rock map. Ilan Rubin may be a millennial in a band beloved by Generation X, but the 24-year-old has proven time andagain that he’s got what it takes to play with the big boys… and manage a packed schedule.
Rubin spoke to Billboard during a half-hour break from rehearsal with Nine Inch Nails, whom he played with on the band’s Wave Goodbye tour in 2008. He’s also drummed for Lostprophets and Angels & Airwaves, teamed with Paramore on their 2013 self-titled album, and released his third solo album, “Exhibit A,” under the name the New Regime. He even played some live shows with Paramore on their comeback trek — until his old friend Trent Reznor came calling.
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“He reached out to me a while back asking about availability and interest, and of course I was interested,” remembers Rubin. “Joining Nine Inch Nails for the first time was a great coincidence, because it was around that time I started developing an interest in electronic music… so it couldn’t have come at a better time.”
Although the bulk of Rubin’s responsibility is being a live percussionist on the upcoming tour, he also contributed to Nine Inch Nails’ upcoming studio album “Hesitation Marks,” due Sept. 3 via Columbia. Given the synthetic nature of NIN’s beats — and Reznor’s unending shroud of mystery — he’s not too sure how much of his studio work actually made it onto the disc. “I couldn’t tell you what exactly — it’s one of those things where I went in and played a little bit here and there on a few songs,” says Rubin. “It’s always different because, for the most part, real acoustic drums are rarely the focal point of Nine Inch Nails’ songs.”
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With so much of his creative energy devoted to other peoples’ projects, Rubin relished the time spent creating the New Regime’s “Exhibit A.” In its eight songs, Rubin says there’s no overbearing influence from Reznor, though the NIN aesthetic is present in the album’s moods and textures. “I learn a lot from his vocal phrasing, but sonically, the things he does are extremely interesting,” Rubin adds. “There are lots of tricks that I picked up from… studying his catalog.”
Watch an exclusive live acoustic performance of the New Regime’s “Daydream”:
When asked about the stale state of mainstream rock music, Rubin said that the genre is being pushed out of the mainstream because there aren’t enough innovative or exciting sounds in the genre. “Either things are either heavily produced, polished, and boring, or it’s kind of an indie thing and it’s very raw… I think it’s for the sake of it or an aesthetic thing,” he says.
To an extent, he calls the New Regime a response to this dilemma. “I’m a student of music. I love music and I listen to it all the time, of course. And I’ve been involved with it for a long time. So, what I’m writing is a product of what I think is good and what I would find exciting in music.”