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Ilan Rubin

While best known for his work on the drums for bands Nine Inch Nails, Angels & Airwaves, and Paramore, multi-instrumentalist Ilan Rubin can do it all. Despite being only 31 years old, Rubin has been involved in the music industry for over 20 years. In this episode, we speak to the California native about fronting his band The New Regime, why Trent Reznor paid him to learn to play the cello, his thoughts on the current music industry, and much more.

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Transcript

Speaker 1:
Welcome to an Ernie Ball podcast. It starts now.

Evan Ball:
Hello, I'm Evan Ball. Welcome to Striking A Chord, an Ernie Ball podcast. Today we have Ilan Rubin on the podcast. Ilan's been in the music business for over 20 years and somehow he's only 31 years old. He's the drummer in both Nine Inch Nails and Angels & Airwaves. He played drums in Paramore and he also has his own band that he fronts The New Regime. While Ilan Rubin is best known for being a drummer, he actually plays everything, and everything well, from guitar to keyboards to singing to cello as it turns out, as he'll explain Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails paid for him to learn cello. As you listen, it will become very clear how versatile and valuable Ilan is as a band mate.

Evan Ball:
In this episode we'll talk about the unique dynamics of his collaboration with Tom DeLonge singer and guitarist of Angels & Airwaves, and of course before that, Blink-182. This leads us to a brief and interesting sidebar where we talk about UFOs and more, and if you're in a band, we talk a lot about the music business today in the second half of the podcast. Ilan has a lot of insight there to impart, so without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, Ilan Rubin. Ilan Rubin welcome to the podcast.

Ilan Rubin:
Thank you for having me.

Evan Ball:
All right, so you're known for getting a pretty early start in the music business, at 11 you're playing Warped Tour and Woodstock. I'm wondering, given that you were a kid, were you able to process how cool and unusual this was or did it just kind of seem like the normal progression of learning an instrument. You practice for a couple of years and you play big festivals?

Ilan Rubin:
A bit of both.

Evan Ball:
Okay.

Ilan Rubin:
And I say that because it was a natural thing that happened for me, getting into an instrument, loving the instrument and practicing and joining my older brother's high school band at the time. That all just felt like a very natural progression but I did notice or realize that it was different when I was in third, fourth, fifth grade and occasionally having to leave to go play a show or do an interview or very odd things that at the time I realized weren't exactly normal per se, but it was all very fun and like I said, natural.

Evan Ball:
How much older was your brother? Two brothers or one brother?

Ilan Rubin:
I have two brothers, so my oldest brother, Aaron and I are eight years apart and Danny is the middle brother. We're five years apart, so I'm the youngest of three.

Evan Ball:
Okay. Did they both play?

Ilan Rubin:
Yeah.

Evan Ball:
Okay.

Ilan Rubin:
Both played.

Evan Ball:
They must've realized how cool and unusual it was.

Ilan Rubin:
I think so.

Evan Ball:
Yeah.

Ilan Rubin:
I think so. Yeah, and having extremely supportive parents really helped with all of that. I think that also made it even more fluid for me. The fact that there was no resistance on any front. It was just, this is what's happening, this is what we're trying to do and we're doing it.

Evan Ball:
Yeah. There definitely seems to be a theme emerging with interviews I've done for this podcast where there's an older sibling or maybe a parent that has an instrument, maybe just tinkers with it, but it's there. The youngster comes along and just takes to it and never looks back.

Ilan Rubin:
Well, that's exactly what it was. My dad was a drummer when he was in high school, but then he made the decision through college to be an adult and get his master's degree and do business and support a family. He went that route, but he still hung onto his drums. Having two older brothers who had already had their curiosities piqued with the drums in the garage, started dabbling and I think it was through watching them play that I decided I can probably do that too.

Evan Ball:
Not to put you in a weird position, but was it apparent that you had maybe more natural ability than other family members or?

Ilan Rubin:
Yes.

Evan Ball:
Yeah. All right.

Ilan Rubin:
But they would admit to that too.

Evan Ball:
Okay, good. Yeah.

Ilan Rubin:
In fact the running joke is that they started with drums so when I picked up drums, they moved to guitar and bass and then I picked up guitar and bass-

Evan Ball:
You just kept chasing them.

Ilan Rubin:
...and then my older brother went into management. That's the story there.

Evan Ball:
Did you kind of cut your teeth on the Warped Tour scene in that '90s punk?

Ilan Rubin:
Honestly, no. It was never my thing musically. It was more so what was going on at the time but like I said, I was nine, 10, 11, 12 years old at the time so what I was raised on was pretty much what I still love to this day, which is more classic rock, we're talking Beatles, Led Zeppelin, that sort of thing. That was the music of my parents' generation and I didn't have a rebellious bone in my body where I was like, no, I'm going to listen to my own music. My dad, when I started playing, said, "Okay, if we're going to play, I want you to listen to this." [inaudible 00:04:37] Led Zeppelin I and to this day, my absolute lifelong favorite.

Ilan Rubin:
That's more what I was into. That's not taking away from the great experience that was playing on Warped Tour and getting to meet a whole variety of people and that was really my first experience traveling and more than just Orange County, LA, Phoenix, things that are easily drivable.

Evan Ball:
Did you play with NOFX? I thought I read that.

Ilan Rubin:
I did. Man, you're digging up some old skeletons, are you? I did. Having played on quite a few shows spread out through two or three years on that tour, I got to know Eric from NOFX and there was a time, this is the last time I played a Warped Tour I think, but there was a time where he had to leave for something. It could have been a family emergency or something that he had to attend and he basically went around asking all the drummers that he knew if they could each kind of learn two songs and that way we could all partake in the set and they wouldn't have to miss the show. I learned the two songs and played them and-

Evan Ball:
How old were you?

Ilan Rubin:
I had to be 13 I'd imagine.

Evan Ball:
Wow.

Ilan Rubin:
13, yeah.

Evan Ball:
Okay. You already knew how to play all that fast punk stuff.

Ilan Rubin:
Yeah. Which is funny because it's a skill that I have and Tom DeLonge finds it very odd because he knows it's not my kind of music, but it's very much his type of music so when I'll play that really fast punk beat or whatever it is. It always makes him laugh because he doesn't expect it from me but like I said, I grew up having to know that sort of thing because of the music at the time.

Evan Ball:
Did you listen to Blink at all back then?

Ilan Rubin:
I did listen to Travis when I first heard of him pretty much Enema of the State. I did listen to that album and I was very impressed with his drumming. I know that sounds ridiculous. I was 10 and I was impressed or whatever it was, but Aaron, my oldest brother passed that down to me. I was like, you should listen to this drummer. He's really, really good because like I said, my brothers were more into that sort of scene but he brought something interesting to that band from a drummer's perspective so as a young kid, I really learned all of that and it was not much later on that somebody saw me on the Warped Tour, I think... this was in 2000. Saw me on the Warped Tour and he noticed these two parental looking figures in the audience and he put it together. They were my parents. He worked with Blink at the time and asked my mom-

Evan Ball:
What band were you playing with?

Ilan Rubin:
This is the very first band. I don't even like talking about it. It's just one of those things.

Evan Ball:
We'll leave it there.

Ilan Rubin:
Yeah. The first high school band. I had to be 11 because this was 2000, 11 and a half, 12 years old at the most but... so this gentleman went up to my mom and confirmed that she was my mother and said, "Hey, do you know if your son would be interested in taking lessons from Travis Barker? Do you know who that is?" And my mom knew who that was and she didn't know whether to take it seriously or not but she talked to my dad about it and passed on the number that this gentleman had passed on to her and he called and it was legitimate and a couple of weeks later I had my first lesson with Travis.

Evan Ball:
Wow. That's crazy.

Ilan Rubin:
Very, very small world and great opportunity. Which by the way the... when we talk about anything that's from that period of time, you have to remember that it's really bizarre to me because it's like I'm 31 now, so that's like two thirds of my life ago and not only from being just a fuzzy memory because I don't really remember it too vividly. I mean there are obviously things that will always stand out, but it's just like, who was that person? That's like a 10 year old kid or a 12 year old kid and it's not until like mid teens, late teens where I start feeling like a preliminary version of myself. You know what I mean? Like I can relate to that person mid to late teens, whereas the super young drummer, I'm like, that is a long time ago. That's really young.

Evan Ball:
I mean to be in that scene.

Ilan Rubin:
And don't get me wrong. I appreciate it. I loved it. I have fond memories of it, but it's just a weird, because it's something that people bring up often and I always kind of like, oof man, we're going back there.

Evan Ball:
Yeah. It is noteworthy though. You got such an early start. For being 31 and having your resume. That's impressive.

Ilan Rubin:
Well, thank you.

Evan Ball:
Yeah. We've been talking about drums a lot, but you also play guitar, you play piano, keyboards ,and in your band, The New Regime, you play everything.

Ilan Rubin:
Everything and sing, yeah.

Evan Ball:
Maybe tell us what are your main instruments as far as what you're most proficient in?

Ilan Rubin:
Well, drums are my first instrument. I started about seven and a half, eight years old but as I said earlier, when I progressed at the drums, my brothers moved on to other instruments, bass and guitar, and I had access to those instruments. It was always a sort of an identical progression of, "Oh, let me try playing that." And then when I realized I could, and I learned a couple of things and I practiced those things, that obsessive fever of just wanting to learn more and play more, happened with every instrument. Happened with the guitar, bass, piano, singing, so on and so forth.

Ilan Rubin:
That has been the majority of my life so I started taking guitar extremely seriously, about 13 years old, really playing, which is a... I think it's a common time where you're in middle school and starting high school, that is the time where people start really getting their instruments and staying in their bedroom for a long time. I was just really fortunate to have already done that for five years, five, six years as a drummer. I kind of already knew the rewards you could attain by sitting down and just practicing. So that's what happened and then obviously if you can play the guitar, that somewhat translates to the bass but I also wanted to make sure that I played the bass, like a bass player.

Ilan Rubin:
I had my favorites Jack Bruce, John Paul Jones, Paul McCartney, and I really took that seriously as well, but by 15 or 16 was the sort of last piece of the main musical puzzle in terms of the piano, because I feel like if you play guitar and piano, you have a great grasp of melody, harmony, chords, progressions, that sort of thing. If you play drums, bass, you obviously have a great sense of rhythm or a grasp of rhythm but then you put all these things together and it was at that time when I was about 18 years old where I thought, if I can do all these things, but I can't sing, what's the point? So I've forced myself to sing so that I wouldn't be stuck in that position of writing songs musically and then missing the glue that makes a song a song, which is the melody and vocals, lyrics.

Evan Ball:
Yeah. Did you sing just casually before that? Did you already know you could sing? You just didn't-

Ilan Rubin:
I knew I had pitch, but the thing with singing that was a harsh reality is that it's the one thing... I'm a fairly shy person and I was much more so as a kid. You can be shy and play the drums or play the guitar and play the bass, but you cannot-

Evan Ball:
Sure.

Ilan Rubin:
...be shy and sing because you can hear it and there's nothing... it's not like, okay, I'm shy, but I have to hit this G chord. You can look at it and you can hit it and be like, okay, hit that G but if you're nervous and you're thinking about singing, it's a huge head game, you know.

Evan Ball:
Right, you got to go for it. Yeah.

Ilan Rubin:
Exactly.

Evan Ball:
Yeah.

Ilan Rubin:
That was the most valuable lesson that I had to learn, but I love doing it.

Evan Ball:
Interesting. Yeah. I wondered how you become proficient in so many instruments because I feel like you need to have that phase where you're passionate and sort of obsessive a little bit rather than just casually tinkering simultaneously with all of them. Do you feel like you did have a chapter where you really got heavy in the guitar and-

Ilan Rubin:
Absolutely.

Evan Ball:
Yeah.

Ilan Rubin:
Absolutely. I had years of obsessing at the piano, years of obsessing at the guitar, bass, so on and so forth.

Evan Ball:
Wow.

Ilan Rubin:
I mean really it's all I've ever done.

Evan Ball:
Yeah. You fit in a lot, but that's also, if I'm correct, how you landed the job as a drummer for Nine Inch Nails and Angels & Airwaves, was having this wide musical ability. Is that-

Ilan Rubin:
That's true. Yeah. I mean, okay, let's talk about Nine Inch Nails specifically. I know is it... initially looked at as maybe a perk or an advantage. Okay, he's a good drummer, but maybe he can do little bits and pieces here and there. I love a challenge, but anything Trent threw at me, I ran towards, I'd love doing it. It's one thing to be able to say, "Hey, I do X, Y, and Z. I play piano, I played this and that." But it's one thing to actually do it in front of a room and then somebody can really assess your skill levels and your talents, whatever it may be.

Ilan Rubin:
Once Trent saw that I was a good pianist, a good bass player, a good guitar player, whatever it was, he then began taking advantage of that and it was, I love it because there are some set lists with Nine Inch Nails where I'm only at the drums for about 60 to 75% of it or I'm running around either the piano, playing bass on a few songs, playing guitar in a few songs. He's throwing the cello at me. I'm not a cellist by any means, but like I said, I love taking the challenge. He came up to me, he's like, "Hey, do you play cello?" And my response was not yet. He's like, "Well, if you want to try there are a couple songs that I think it'd be cool to have it on, so I'm willing to get you lessons if you think you can do it." I said, absolutely.

Ilan Rubin:
I took lessons I think every Thursday after rehearsals or whatever. Somebody would come by and teach me and there were two or three songs even up until the last tour that I would play cello on and it was a lot of fun.

Evan Ball:
Wow.

Ilan Rubin:
But I also had a great time, this is late 2013 early 2014. We had a very expanded lineup with Nine Inch Nails where we had backup singers and Pino Palladino was on bass. He had done some playing on the Hesitation Marks album, but that lineup was just for one tour. It was for the Tension tour, but come the following year where the band had once again sort of whittled down to a four or five piece, you then have to rearrange parts and redistribute parts.

Ilan Rubin:
Trent approached me and said, "Do you think you can play Pino's bass lines?" And I said, yes. Now Pino is on another level to everybody on the planet so I'm not saying... I'm not comparing myself in any way, but it was a great opportunity and so much fun to be able to play his bass lines live on those songs, especially when it would be going from playing something super aggressive like March of the Pigs and then say getting off the drums and playing All Time Low, which is super funky and laid back so I just had such a great time.

Ilan Rubin:
Nine Inch Nails has been the only band that I've ever been able to really showcase what I do, aside from The New Regime, obviously but that's my own, and then there are some similarities in terms of the multi-instrumentalist aspect with Angels, where on this last tour I played acoustic guitar at the front of the stage for a song or keyboards way back when seven, eight years ago, the time we played before this last run but I love doing that. It just kind of keeps everything more fresh and more exciting for me.

Evan Ball:
Yeah. Angels & Airwaves, you were actually brought in to be part of the writing process.

Ilan Rubin:
That's true. Yeah.

Evan Ball:
Yeah. Is it basically... from what I gather, Tom DeLonge will come with some idea, you'll take it, mess with it and maybe move it in a direction that it wouldn't be moved in if he were writing solo?

Ilan Rubin:
Yeah, I mean him and I had to arrive at a way to work together because we look at music as almost, even though music is music, it's like two different languages to Tom and I. He's on one side of the spectrum and I'm on the other side of the spectrum.

Evan Ball:
Interesting. Okay.

Ilan Rubin:
And it's not... I mean literally if you play a minor chord to him or a seventh chord to him, it sounds wrong. He is just like hard tuned for major catchy poppy. That's how he functions and he's been immensely successful with it and I commend him. To me, there's nothing more beautiful than a minor chord. Right? I mean just to put it as black and white as can be, but I also like to sort of study music and I like to experiment and do all these different things. There was a huge speed bump, more like a brick wall when we started trying to write together.

Evan Ball:
Oh, really.

Ilan Rubin:
...where it was like, "Hey, I've got these chords. What do you think?" And not that these chords were bizarre by any means or these riffs were difficult or complex. I don't like things that are weird or complex or odd for the sake of it. Everything has its place but to him it was very weird and complex and odd, which I was baffled by and it just wasn't computing, it wasn't inspiring him to write a melody to it. Long story kind of short, he would then write music. I would take his tracks, sometimes strip all of the chords beneath them, leave his melody, and then that would be the way where he could look at the same piece of music from a different perspective and be like, "Oh that's my melody that I like. It's catchy, it's cool but I never would've thought about those chords and I like them and now we have co-written something." But it's not co-written in the sense of let's jam it out or-

Evan Ball:
Yeah, [crosstalk 00:18:22]. Okay.

Ilan Rubin:
Let's pick each other's ideas and see which one-

Evan Ball:
Keep his melody, maybe sneak a few minor chords in there.

Ilan Rubin:
Exactly. Yeah and it doesn't have to be that per se. It's just, what's unbelievable to me is that Tom can write a hundred songs with the same chords, but not realize that they're the same chords.

Evan Ball:
Right. Yeah.

Ilan Rubin:
And I'm not saying that in a negative way. I mean, people love his music and all the power to him, but he's just not looking at it in the sense of, "I've used those chords before. I'm going to try something else." He'll just be like, here's a new song and I can say, but you did that in this song and that song and the other, and literally on his face, you can realize that he didn't know that.

Evan Ball:
Wow.

Ilan Rubin:
He's just... he writes from a different place.

Evan Ball:
Is he writing melodies concurrently with his chords?

Ilan Rubin:
Yes.

Evan Ball:
Yeah, okay.

Ilan Rubin:
Yeah. He can take CGF farther than probably anybody on the planet and not realize that it's CGF, but-

Evan Ball:
That's kind of cool though because-

Ilan Rubin:
It is.

Evan Ball:
...you're not worried about it. You're just kind of following your heart I guess.

Ilan Rubin:
It is but it's funny when you walk into a room, and obviously this is a while ago now, but when you walk into a room you're like, here's the new song, check it out and I'm like-

Evan Ball:
Wait, is this the new one?

Ilan Rubin:
What are you talking about? And we had some arguments, but we're both very proud of what became The Dream Walker because that was the first... honestly the only full length album that we've done as just him and I being the two writers and that came out in 2014. We never toured on it so these last two tours that we did to close out 2019 were the first time we'd played these songs, which were five years old but they didn't feel that old because we'd never played them live before. At that time I was touring a lot with Nine Inch Nails. He was touring a lot with Blink and it was all a matter of when our schedules would coincide with being home in San Diego.

Evan Ball:
Given the wide range of creative projects he does, from novels to UFO documentaries, I would just speculate that he's a guy who always has a million ideas going at once.

Ilan Rubin:
Yes.

Evan Ball:
Is it difficult to harness that energy or is it just-

Ilan Rubin:
You have to learn how to just dissipate it because it keeps coming from him, which is great and the guy is-

Evan Ball:
So never a lack of ideas.

Ilan Rubin:
Never.

Evan Ball:
Yeah.

Ilan Rubin:
Whether it's movie ideas like you said, books, music and then even within these ideas he's got to come up with music, which my brother Aaron's been involved with. My brother who I mentioned as my manager is also involved in the Angels world because he engineers, mixes most of the music and produces all of it, at least since my involvement with the band and they together co-write the music for his show that's on the history channel.

Evan Ball:
Oh really?

Ilan Rubin:
There is just so many outlets with music alone aside from books and movies and-

Evan Ball:
That's the Unidentified-

Ilan Rubin:
Exactly.

Evan Ball:
Okay. [crosstalk 00:21:23].

Ilan Rubin:
Yeah. They do the music for that as well.

Evan Ball:
Oh, interesting. Okay.

Ilan Rubin:
So there's so many things. Now as you can imagine. I wouldn't say it's hard to deal with because everything he does does not affect me. I mean like the guy can have a million ideas and he should pursue them all but as you can imagine having that much on the mind, it can be difficult to schedule things or figure things out when it is... and especially it's become a little more difficult since I moved to LA, but we managed to write the songs and record them and [crosstalk 00:21:55].

Evan Ball:
It's impressive what he's been able to orchestrate as far as investigating UFOs and government cover-ups. I mean-

Ilan Rubin:
I know, it's unbelievable.

Evan Ball:
Do you have conversations about that with them?

Ilan Rubin:
It's my favorite thing that Tom does because his alien knowledge, his theorizing and whatever you want to call it is fascinating. I mean the guy sounds insane, but given the context that he has and the stuff that he has shown the public and him being verified by the Navy in terms of that... did you hear about that?

Evan Ball:
I've seen the first couple episodes.

Ilan Rubin:
Well, a few months ago... well, no. Let's take it back maybe a year and a half or so. He released some UFO footage through his company, To The Stars Academy and some people believed it. Other people were like, this guy's nuts. Like Joe Rogan for example, did not buy any of it and I think he should apologize to Tom because he was kind of being a dick to him on the show.

Evan Ball:
Was Tom on the show?

Ilan Rubin:
Tom was on the show but here's what's funny. The same video footage is brought out by the US Navy said these are real, and that kind of just verified his claims and-

Evan Ball:
So Tom had them in advance?

Ilan Rubin:
Yeah.

Evan Ball:
Okay.

Ilan Rubin:
I don't know if he had the rights to it or whatever it was, but he brought these out and said these are real and like I said, you had your believers, you had your non-believers, but amongst all that chatter and argument, out comes the US Navy saying that these are real videos, we don't know what those things are. We're not saying they're aliens, we're saying they are UFOs. We don't know what they are.

Evan Ball:
Is that separate from the footage in the documentary that has the Tic Tac shaped...?

Ilan Rubin:
That sounds about right.

Evan Ball:
Okay.

Ilan Rubin:
Yeah.

Evan Ball:
All right.

Ilan Rubin:
Yeah.

Evan Ball:
How persuaded are you? Just to get off topic for a second.

Ilan Rubin:
Hey man, I have all day. I've never been a doubter to be honest with you, just because I find it impossible that we are the only things in existence. It just can't be. Considering how big the universe is and how it's constantly expanding. It is in my opinion, pretty stupid to think that we're the only things out here. I've never been a doubter, but these things go to many, many levels. I mean, for example, anytime he talks to me about something, I'll go online and see what I can find about it and not too long ago, I stumbled across some Edward Snowden leaked file that Forbes put out. It seemed to be very credible places to be reading the sort of thing saying that this tall race of aliens were helping the Germans during World War II and this is a leak-

Evan Ball:
Wait, Forbes put that out?

Ilan Rubin:
Yeah, and years ago. You find it and it's there and it's like now if I'm on the couch with Tom in between takes and he tells me this story, I'm going to be like, what is wrong with you? Like you have to be joking me, but then you go do your own little bit of digging and you're like, I mean, why is Forbes putting this out? This super wanted guy was leaking highly classified documents. This is what he's putting out there. It's just... there's so many pieces-

Evan Ball:
Interesting.

Ilan Rubin:
...that whether you believe it or not, it's fascinating and that's kind of where I'm at. I just find it all incredible.

Evan Ball:
Yeah. I'm definitely not in that world but-

Ilan Rubin:
I know plenty about Star Wars, so if it's real, then great. I mean, I'll learn about aliens-

Evan Ball:
The documentaries are compelling [crosstalk 00:25:30].

Ilan Rubin:
I love them. Yeah.

Evan Ball:
But I'm but I'm still cautious. That flat earth documentary is kind of compelling, or not compelling, but illuminating. You could kind of see how someone could believe it if they were only exposed to those YouTube propaganda videos and not real information. Just saying information can be presented in manipulative ways.

Ilan Rubin:
As the percentage of flat earthers increases I think global intelligence is diminishing almost daily.

Evan Ball:
Yeah. I think people have always been susceptible to buying into things, but now it's just at your fingertips.

Ilan Rubin:
I mean, stupidity is a dime a dozen these days, right? I mean I'm sure it always has been. It's just more apparent because you can know what everybody's doing at any given time.

Evan Ball:
Yeah, but people can easily produce these things and put them on YouTube now. So you can find your people easier.

Ilan Rubin:
Yeah but that's the scary thing to whereas at a time... and look, I can't talk like, oh, in the old days, because I was born in 1988. I pretty much had the Internet for most of my life. I'm not talking from my high horse here, but let's say in the '70s or '80s you wanted to do your research. You had to go find obscure books and talk to people and whatever sort of printed media you could find. That's how you got this stuff but now you can find whatever you want and specifically what you're looking for, whether it's true or not, you can find "evidence" to back up any theory that you want and it's-

Evan Ball:
You can confirm what you already believe very easily.

Ilan Rubin:
Exactly and it's scary because somebody can go, "I know this because I saw it." It's like, but who's your source? What's this person's source? And it's crazy because I don't know, people also get lazier. It's easier to find information. There's no credibility to a ton of it.

Evan Ball:
[inaudible 00:27:10] and so much gets wrapped into your identity and then it's sort of unshakable after it's part of you.

Ilan Rubin:
Exactly. Yeah, you're very right.

Evan Ball:
Anyway.

Ilan Rubin:
So guitar strings, huh?

Evan Ball:
Yeah.

Ilan Rubin:
These Ernie Ball mic cables great by the way.

Evan Ball:
Aren't they?

Ilan Rubin:
Everybody should get these.

Evan Ball:
Yeah, listen to that clarity.

Ilan Rubin:
Stunning.

Evan Ball:
What gauge and type of Ernie Ball strings do you play?

Ilan Rubin:
I went to the Paradigm line ,11s. Before I was kind of doing the mix and match thing to just try it out. I wasn't quite in the like Heavy Bottom Slinky top range, like I wasn't playing a 52 on the E or anything, but I kind of stumbled across just 50, 40, 30 then 18, 14, 11 or whatever it was because I do like to bend on the high strings and the low strings.

Evan Ball:
Right.

Ilan Rubin:
But like I said, it's not something I'm super picky about. I just can't have this something super slinky and since I tune to E flat, I need that little bit of extra tension and we can't leave out acoustics because I've done a fair bit of experimenting there.

Evan Ball:
All right, we like that.

Ilan Rubin:
Yeah. I'm using Paradigms on the acoustics as well. Now part of that comes from two places. They last a long time. They sound great and jumping off the last long time that means I don't have to change them as often.

Evan Ball:
Sure. Always nice.

Ilan Rubin:
So it's just great.

Evan Ball:
Yeah. All right, let's take a quick break then come back and talk more about your various bands. Nine Inch Nails, Angels & Airwaves, and The New Regime.

Speaker 4:
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Evan Ball:
The different bands you're in. Do you have to establish some sort of pecking order in case of scheduling conflicts?

Ilan Rubin:
That's a really good question. It's something that gives me underlying anxiety constantly just because everyone is on a different schedule and it's really tough because... I mean, look, these are good problems. I don't want anyone to listen to this and be like, oh poor guy, he has three bands that he has to tour with. It's not that at all. It's just I want to do everything that I possibly can and what's easiest to deal with, of course, is Nine Inch Nails and the reason why I say that is I've never encountered someone as focused as Trent and just so on the ball with whatever it is that he's doing and not to compare the two, but let's say Trent with film scoring, which he's done more and more and more of for almost 10 years now, it's going to be close to, I mean he will focus on that and score a ton of movies and documentaries, whatever it may be, and that's where his focus is and then he goes, okay, time for Nine Inch Nails and I get that heads up a year in advance at least.

Ilan Rubin:
I can plan what's going on and then with Tom for example, you get this, we haven't played in seven years, but I want a tour. What are you doing? What are you doing in a year? And it's like, I don't know what I'm doing in a year because I know that Trent wants to tour. I just signed a deal for The New Regime and I'm putting up music. My album is already done and he's like, "Well, I really want you to do it so how do we make this work?" It's like, I really want to do it too. I'm just... I have so many months in the year, I don't want to say no to anybody honestly and I have to try to make it work.

Ilan Rubin:
This year, for example, I don't know if you knew this, but the first tour Angels had done in seven years and The New Regime supported that entire tour because I had the first new music in a couple of years out-

Evan Ball:
Yeah, so that's a good solution in the pecking order.

Ilan Rubin:
Yeah, I mean it's like I will put in more work than I'm physically capable of just to make it work. I mean, if I had to play with three bands, and I would do it because I want to and that's just the way I'm wired and honestly it was incredible fun. I'd never felt more energetic in my life.

Evan Ball:
It was a pretty good melding of fans with the two bands?

Ilan Rubin:
It was and to be honest, I was slightly worried about it just because The New Regime music is very different to Angels & Airwaves and there's a fairly fanatical fan base with Angels. I wasn't sure how it was going to go. To my relief it went extremely well. Venues were full every single night and I was direct support. I would literally do my thing, get off stage, they would do changeover. I'd take off my jacket, take off my boots because I don't play drums with boots on or shoes and just walk right back out on stage get there for an hour and 20 minutes or so. I loved it.

Evan Ball:
Nice.

Ilan Rubin:
Yeah.

Evan Ball:
Are there any differences that come to mind between the fans of your different bands, maybe demographics or intensity?

Ilan Rubin:
Between Angels & Airwaves and Nine Inch Nails, I mean, it's two different types of very rabid fans.

Evan Ball:
Right.

Ilan Rubin:
Obviously Nine Inch Nails has been around that much longer and the fans have that much more music and just greater parts of their lives that have been invested into this thing but-

Evan Ball:
Older crowd though.

Ilan Rubin:
Yeah. Well, I mean it's... as a whole, I'd say, yes, but you'd be very surprised in both age directions with both bands because it's really all over the place, especially when you're playing venues two or three nights in a row or you're playing festivals. It's a very, very different fan base. Teens to whatever you want to call it. The same thing with Angels. I mean, we've been doing meet-and-greets for example, before the shows and you can have teenagers who are literally, "I grew up listening to you, Tom. My whole life has been you," and then you can have people who are 15, 20 years older than Tom who were just like, I found your band. I really love it and thank you guys for doing this. It's really all over the place.

Evan Ball:
Are there are a lot of Blink-182 fans? Is that the core of it, do you think?

Ilan Rubin:
At the core, yes but there are so many people who either only like Angels & Airwaves or just love everything in the DeLonge universe. I mean, there are people who literally roll up their shirt and it's every band he's been in tattooed on them. Seriously.

Evan Ball:
Wow.

Ilan Rubin:
Yeah.

Evan Ball:
Any other good overzealous fan stories come to mind?

Ilan Rubin:
I mean, there are a handful of fans with either band that you can, doesn't matter where you are, they're there and it's unbelievable commitment but-

Evan Ball:
Like every show, no matter where it is?

Ilan Rubin:
Yeah.

Evan Ball:
Wow.

Ilan Rubin:
Or most of them and with Nine Inch Nails, it's crazier where you could play in Tokyo and four days later you're in Paris-

Evan Ball:
Really?

Ilan Rubin:
...and that person is there and you can spot them. It's nuts. It's amazing but like wow.

Evan Ball:
So they're wealthy individuals?

Ilan Rubin:
I have not done any-

Evan Ball:
It's a mystery?

Ilan Rubin:
I didn't hire a PI, I don't really know, but just people who love it that much but there was this individual, name was Lee. Super cool, laid back guy. Came to most of the meet and greets. I think he went to a meet-and-greet to every city that he was in for a show but he came up to me numerous times with the first... second or third time we had like a proper conversation. He's like, hey, I was at a bookstore and I know you love the Beatles, so I just wanted to give this to you and he said thank you for doing these shows and everything, and I'm like, what a good guy. I don't know if that goes under the overzealous category, but just an awesome encounter with a good dude who really loves the music.

Evan Ball:
That's cool. All right. With The New Regime, you're recording every layer. I'm wondering, do you record guitars to a click first and then overdub drums or what's the basic order of layering?

Ilan Rubin:
I've kind of changed things around in terms of how I record them. Before with my first recordings I would record the drums to a click and just play the song from memory.

Evan Ball:
Really? Okay.

Ilan Rubin:
...and then track everything on top of that, and that's fine but what I really started enjoying for the past couple of years is taking the tracks from the demoing phase, kind of bouncing them down to just something that you can play along to and then redoing the drums and then scrapping everything. That way you're at least still playing to music and may add to some of the feel, or some of the energy but-

Evan Ball:
Will the demos have electronic drums or V drums or-

Ilan Rubin:
Well, lately... so for those listening we're in my little studio that have set up at home and what I've done is I have this little Roland kit, which is a TD-17. It's not super expensive. It's kind of the intermediate sort of V drum, but it does a great job and basically they'll USB out of the interface straight into the computer or to a hub or whatever and I trigger fantastic samples. I've been using Superior Drummer 3 and that way I'm still playing and it sounds like me, it feels like me. It's obviously not the most fun to hit mesh pads, but they do a phenomenal job of registering the playing, so when I'm actually done playing and I'm listening, I'm like, that sounds like me and I'm pleased because I hate programming to sound realistic.

Ilan Rubin:
That's way more of a pain in the ass than it's worth, but then you don't want to listen to a demo that sounds robotic and doesn't have any soul or feel to it. This has been the best thing for my writing process so it's-

Evan Ball:
You can use basically the same file and go in and put real drums over it for the final version.

Ilan Rubin:
Yeah. What I would do is, let's say I have recorded a demo where I have my drum track, bass guitar tracks, whatever it is. I can then go to the studio, wipe the drums, play to a click because I record everything to a click and so I can just be playing to the guitars and the click track. Once I have my drum take and I know that's it I'll erase everything else or put everything else away and then rebuild the track one at a time. Everything that I have in here is either going into a USB hub or into the interface. I can literally just without having to leave my chair, go from drums, guitar, bass, piano, do stuff on the computer since you have the midi controllers beneath the desk and then when I'm ready I just stand up and sing and I can have something done in a day.

Evan Ball:
Is it difficult to hand over the drums when you play live because you know exactly how you want to play it on The New Regime?

Ilan Rubin:
It's not as difficult as you'd think. Okay. Because I'm not the kind of guy who's like, this is the way I played it. This is the way you need to play it. These are the fills. I could give a shit about fills. What's important to me is the feel, the energy and the beats. The beats are written very specifically. I mean, the feel comes from the patterns that I chose to use for the song. Beats are something that have to be note for note, but in terms of fills, if I do something fancy on a song, I don't care. As long as it feels good live and it comes across, especially with my drummer that I have now. His name's Rob Ketchum. He does a lot of the high vocals, which has been a blessing for me because I like to layer harmonies a lot, but as a three piece band you're lucky to get two singers let alone three so I've really been able to take advantage of the three piece really to its fullest extent I feel.

Evan Ball:
Let's talk about the music business today a little bit. I'm curious, does it make sense for a band to have a goal of-

Ilan Rubin:
No. 

Evan Ball:
Don't have a band.

Ilan Rubin:
Sorry.

Evan Ball:
Just stop. Does it make sense for a band to have a goal of getting signed by a record label?

Ilan Rubin:
I'm going to go with no.

Evan Ball:
Okay.

Ilan Rubin:
The thing that's difficult is as The New Regime, for example, I was completely independent for my first few releases and I was sick and tired of it because it was like I'm putting in all this effort to write and record everything, tour everything, and I felt like everybody who knew about The New Regime was enjoying it, loving the progression of the music but the thing that kept really irritating me, even though people were saying, I love this, this is my new favorite song by you or whatever it is, something complimentary.

Ilan Rubin:
What was driving me nuts was it was the same people and I didn't feel like I was reaching new people. Even with touring because what happens with touring, everything is a dual edged sword, right? You can go, okay, you're touring, you're playing in front of people, but I feel like these days, unless you're very similar to the band who you're playing with or if you're in a particular scene or something. A lot of the bands who I opened up for, supported, we were not in the same musical world and the bigger the band you tour with or the band who has a more fanatical fan base, they are there for that band and you as the opener or the support act are more times than not in the way of them seeing the band they came for.

Ilan Rubin:
The best shows that I felt greatest response from the crowd aside from this Angels run, were opening up for Muse a couple of times and we did one show with the Killers in San Diego and it just depends on the types of fan base and the demographics you're looking at, which is stuff you don't want to think about. You want to just go out and play in front of people and hopefully they enjoy it. It's tough because you think, okay, how do I get my music out there? I tour, I put it out there, "Hey, you can put it on YouTube or SoundCloud or iTunes and anyone can listen to it." But 100 million people have the same idea and are doing the exact same thing, which then makes it that much more difficult to kind of break through to the top, and I think there are a lot of phases and trends with what labels are looking for because none of them were forward thinking. It's just a fact.

Ilan Rubin:
I mean what people have stumbled into now, because everything is so data and analytics driven, is that they have the ability to say, who is this band? How many followers do they have on their social media platforms and how many streams do they have on this? Whoa, they have a lot of streams and I never heard about them. Maybe we should sign them because they're already doing well and nine times out of 10 I'd say that's how people get signed these days -- by already doing well yourself and then making them feel like they have a pretty safe investment and that you are a safe bet that they don't have to work as hard on if you were a band that nobody had ever heard of.

Ilan Rubin:
And what's a shame about that is that with everything being so analytics driven, you are really functioning based on what numbers are telling you and I'm not saying that the business is not important. What I'm saying is that the investment in both money and time are important. Whereas you could have had a band in the '70s or '80s or '90s who didn't do anything on their first album, didn't do anything on their second album, started making a dent on their third album and the fourth was their huge breakout. You're not going to get to a fourth album these days if you're not performing on your first one. It's just not going to happen. That sort of gut instinct of anonymous A and R guy saying, "Oh, I love this band. You know what? People don't get it right now but it's going to happen. This is it."

Ilan Rubin:
That doesn't happen. It's holy shit. Who's this girl who has 100,000 streams? We can probably get that to 100 million streams if we play our cards right. I'm throwing out arbitrary numbers, but you get what I'm saying.

Evan Ball:
Yeah.

Ilan Rubin:
And I feel like that is a problem and I think genre is a huge issue because I think it's getting better but what I mean by genre being an issue is this bullshit about, "Oh [Brock 00:43:18] isn't in right now or this isn't in right now. This is what we're looking for. That's what we're looking for." That is so stupid because the second you have the tides change and somebody signed that one rock band or that one folk act or Americana band who had that breakout single. What does everybody do? Everybody tries to find the next closest thing they can to that breakout artist and that's what I'm saying, it's not forward thinking. It's immensely shortsighted and what I find ironic about the shortsightedness is that so many of these labels are still living off of phenomenal back catalogs that continue to sell. You know what I mean?

Evan Ball:
Yeah.

Ilan Rubin:
It's tough.

Evan Ball:
Yeah. It seems like it's so much more about individual stars rather than bands now, at least at the top tier, but even the big bands, the singer gets separated and elevated and collaborates with other superstars. What should a band strive for? What would be considered success for a band today? I mean, touring and supporting yourself?

Ilan Rubin:
Supporting yourself, I would have to say is the factor. I mean, of course you can go a lot more spiritual about it and be like, "Hey man, if you're happy, cool." But everyone needs to live and everyone needs to support themselves to live. I think that would be the most-

Evan Ball:
And is touring the way to do that?

Ilan Rubin:
It's tough. I mean that that requires the most sweat equity because you're in debt, you're doing it, you're putting in the time in the hopes that it pays off but not only pays off, it pays off exponentially. I mean, that's what everybody wants. It's like, you know what? I roughed it for X amount of years, now I'm making money. Now I'm comfortable and now I can live. That's where I feel an enormous advantage having started so young, but I also had it drilled into me very young that music is work, it's life.

Ilan Rubin:
It's not just go out there and have fun. Of course, that's the goal. If you're not having fun, don't do it but at the same time I was just taught to be smart about it.

Evan Ball:
Getting into this young, did you ever have a wild phase, like a child actor?

Ilan Rubin:
Zero.

Evan Ball:
You were always very professional.

Ilan Rubin:
I'm the most boring individual you will ever encounter. In fact, probably by this point you can just see the listeners of this podcast slowly decline, but honestly, immensely boring.

Evan Ball:
Ilan Rubin, thanks for being on the podcast.

Ilan Rubin:
Yeah, and it's over.

Evan Ball:
No, no.

Ilan Rubin:
I also had a... I suppose a unique perspective from an early age because like I said, being nine, 10 years old in my brother's high school band with people who were eight years older than me, when they were going through their dabbling phases or whatever it was and I'm sure I came across like a little judgmental prick when I was a kid, but I just saw people kind of acting stupid and not being cool and I just never had that interest. When I was in high school and my friends kind of started getting into whatever they were getting into, I didn't judge anybody. I didn't say, you shouldn't do that. I mean everyone can do whatever the hell they want but in the back of my mind I was like, "Oh, I hope they kind of grow out of this soon."

Evan Ball:
Yeah, sure.

Ilan Rubin:
This is me being a 15 year old saying to myself, I hope my friends grow out of being idiots. I know that can come across really pretentious or arrogant, but like I said, I had that unique perspective from being so young, hanging around people that when I became that age, I had a very different outlook on life and professionalism. I've always held professionalism to the highest degree and standard but keep myself to that. I-

Evan Ball:
Probably something you'd recommend to people today.

Ilan Rubin:
Absolutely.

Evan Ball:
...who want get into the business.

Ilan Rubin:
Absolutely. I mean, so many people who have luck in success squander so much time, let alone money and whatever you want, but you have to be professional, especially if you... it depends what you're looking for because if you're in a band and the band has a vibe and the band is wild and whatever, then as a unit you guys are doing what you're doing and people may like that but if you're trying to get into the session scene and you want to play on other people's recordings or play in other people's bands, if you're not professional, you're done.

Evan Ball:
Yeah.

Ilan Rubin:
And that's it but just like any job and I think people kind of lose sight of the fact that music can be just that. A job and if you don't-

Evan Ball:
You watch the Mötley Crüe documentary and-

Ilan Rubin:
Yeah.

Evan Ball:
Okay. That's how you do it.

Ilan Rubin:
You have four guys who are equally just, yeah man, having a great time and before you know it one dies twice, you get that wake up call and most people are not as lucky as Mötley Crüe but you get what I'm saying?

Evan Ball:
Yeah.

Ilan Rubin:
It totally depends what you're looking for but if you're in the session scene and you want to be that, you have to treat it like a job and as professionally as can be or else you won't get called back.

Evan Ball:
Yeah, so what do you have coming up? You have some albums coming out.

Ilan Rubin:
I do. Yeah. Right now I have some more music from The New Regime coming out. My album, Heart Mind Body & Soul has been released in quarters. Heart has been its own four songs. Mind, its own so on and so forth. The next two installments will be coming out... installments, it sounded like an infomercial but yeah. The next one's coming out in a few days and then the fourth one will be coming out in a couple months from now. Aside from that, I've been touring with Angels & Airwaves quite a bit. I got home on the 23rd just before the holidays and I'm going back out January 13th I think and have a short run.

Ilan Rubin:
There are some other things happening this year. I'm just in that. It's kind of a rough time for the music industry from like Thanksgiving till about February where everyone's figuring out what the year's looking like. There's a lot happening, but none of it has been confirmed or announced yet, so I can't really say much there, but I'm looking forward to 2020.

Evan Ball:
All right. Okay.

Ilan Rubin:
Was that all right for you guys?

Evan Ball:
I think we did it, yeah.

Ilan Rubin:
Okay.

Evan Ball:
All right.

Ilan Rubin:
Thank you for having me.

Evan Ball:
Thanks for being on the podcast. Thanks again for listening to Striking a Chord, a podcast presented by Ernie Ball.

Evan Ball:
Thanks to Ilan Rubin for sharing his story and his insights and piquing my interest in aliens. If you'd like to contact us email strikingachord@ernieball.com. Anything more specific [Tim 00:50:04] about guitar style?

Tim:
No. I mean... well I think it's just interesting what you're saying so I noticed when you... yeah, you have like that kind of, I don't know the right word, like...

Evan Ball:
Savoir faire.

Tim:
No. It's like this approach to... like, okay. When you came up to the factory, one comment Drew, one of our engineers, had was like, you got... your riffs are really cool. They're not like other people's riffs, but they're still kind of classic, like the way that you were playing these different riffs, but like you said in your live thing, you have all these crazy like experimental modular things going on with the riffs and mixing those two things and so it's... do you feel like sometimes, yeah, Alice In Chains like maybe, okay that's a guitar crowd. They'll be like, oh cool, he's rippin' solo. It's like we're cool, but then you might play something a little bit more like K Rock where you're playing alongside Twenty One Pilots or something like that and it's people are like, I don't know what to do with this.

Tim:
Is it because you think it goes a little bit more into the experimental side and you're like trying to find your own voice or you're just sticking to it and you're like, this is what it is. Either get on board and that's that.

Ilan Rubin:
It's tough. I mean, what you're mentioning right now is a very specific type of show, like a radio show where you have, or at least that's how I interpret it. Maybe just because that's what I had just done.

Tim:
[crosstalk 00:51:36].

Ilan Rubin:
It can be very difficult just going in front of an audience. They don't know what to expect of you. You don't know what to expect of them. Obviously you want to perform and bring yourself across the way you want to be seen but at the same time you also want to win a crowd over and it's not just as easy as saying these are the songs, you got to like them. And especially with having a very sort of versatile back catalog of music, because that's just the way I like to write. If I've written one song that is super riff based in one key, I don't want to do something that sounds similar to that, I've already done it.

Ilan Rubin:
I've had the ability to kind of somewhat tailor sets to who I'm playing with, but yeah, there are times where you can see that it's not going over well and they don't give a shit if you're playing the guitar well. They want a beat and then when that song comes up that has a beat, that's when it clicks and then we're like, oh, okay, I understand this. He's got a beat that we like and understand and he's playing guitar on top of it now it makes sense, which I know sounds like a really kind of stupid way to explain it, but the crowds and their faces are so telling and you can see what's working and what isn't working.

Evan Ball:
How else do you get exposed to new fans? How do you get your music out there? I mean, is it finding the right band to open up for?

Ilan Rubin:
That is crucial. Absolutely. Now I have a weird sort of... I don't even know if I would call it an advantage per se, but because of my different affiliations with bands, I've been fortunate enough to pull people from those bands. It's very weird to think that I have a lot of Nine Inch Nails fans, a lot of Angels & Airwaves fans, even a lot of Paramore fans from when I did their fourth album as a drummer and a few weeks of touring back in 2013 but I have fans from all these bases but if I told you, does my music sound like... or if you asked me does my music sound like Nine Inch Nails, Paramore, Angels & Airwaves, I'd say absolutely not.

Ilan Rubin:
It's this kind of unique base that I've acquired because of my affiliations, but it is really great when say you get... a song's in a playlist, which is a way that... that's the best way, a very hard way, but the best way to get sort of instant gratification if it's the right playlist and there was a playlist that I hadn't even heard of and I was just like, why is this one song of mine have so many listens in comparison to everything else? And I found that that's what it was.

Evan Ball:
What song was it? Do you remember?

Ilan Rubin:
It's a song called Say What You Will.

Evan Ball:
Yeah.

Ilan Rubin:
Now, it's not like it has a ton, but you can see there's a visible difference. There's also just the music from a song called, This Is A New World, which was on Shameless years ago, but seeing people ask what this is, I really like this or all I heard this on Shameless or I heard a song years ago on some video game and people were like, I love the song. Every time the song comes up when I hit a home run. I love it. Weird stuff like that and these are obviously very niche ways of getting music across, but it's very different.

Evan Ball:
It's funny now that you say that, Say What You Will. That's how I first found you guys because Spotify recommended it to me in a mix.

Ilan Rubin:
Oh, that's good. So it worked.

Evan Ball:
When I just clicked on my... Yeah, recommended weekly mix or whatever it was.

Ilan Rubin:
Well, that's good to know.

Evan Ball:
And that song was on there.

Ilan Rubin:
Awesome.

Evan Ball:
And it stood out. Yeah.

Ilan Rubin:
Yeah.

Evan Ball:
I don't know how you get that, get in their algorithm somehow.

Ilan Rubin:
That word, that mysterious algorithm.

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