In his role as the drummer for both Nine Inch Nails and Angels & Airwaves, Ilan Rubin is used to playing on the world’s biggest stages. But as the frontman for his alternative rock solo project, The New Regime, he’s typically either headlining smaller venues or opening for other marquee acts, including fellow Los Angeles-based rockers Silversun Pickups at The Orange Peel on Wednesday, March 11.
Such extremes and responsibility shifts might leave a lesser artist with whiplash, but for the San Diego native, it’s a seamless process. “There’s more on my shoulders when it comes to fronting a band, or at least it feels that way. But there isn’t any pressure from either. It’s what I’ve done my entire life as a drummer, so it’s always a very comfortable scenario,” Rubin says.
“I’ve fronted the band long enough to where that also feels comfortable, but it’s a different kind of rush and a different type of mentality because with the drums, I have the ability to be in my own world and just go for it, whereas there has to be a degree of connection as a frontman. You’re focusing on different things other than just performing well and singing well. There’s a whole other layer to it, which I love improving and working on.”
The latest fruit of this labor is Heart Mind Body & Soul, released as a staggered series of four EPs, each with four songs, grouped under each titular topic. Rubin made the decision to roll out the project in this manner after accepting that few music fans still take the time to sit down and hear an entire album.
“You have to really think about how things are listened to and how they’re consumed,” he says, noting that his preferred method for experiencing records is during long, solitary drives in his car. “I would hate to put all this work into a very long album, only to have people skip through it or not really give it time. But if you kind of [space it out], it really allows itself to be consumed fully.”
The complete 16-track collection was resequenced for its March 6 release, thereby scattering the concept album approach, yet more accurately reflecting the manner with which it was conceived. Though Rubin didn’t set out to craft songs that neatly fit within the four categories, he says that because of the headspace he happened to be in while writing, the project somewhat organized itself — a fascinating discovery he made while sifting through the finished tracks. As such, he feels that most of his lyrics “come from a pretty subconscious place” and that “the vibe of the music itself will then sort of dictate where [the song] goes,” resulting in a level of ambiguity that he strives for with most of his creations.
“I recall, for a good while, people constantly mentioning the need for very conversational lyrics, not liking to think or interpret — but I’ve always found that to be very stupid,” he says. “I’m not saying things need to be shrouded in mystery or that you should be bullshitting anything, but if there’s nothing really to think about or there aren’t many layers to dive into or possibilities, then what’s the point of listening to it more than a couple of times? I think when there are many layers — whether it be musically, lyrically, or, ideally, both — there’s got to be something there that keeps you coming back.”
Rubin indeed employs a similar thoughtfulness on the sonic level. The New Regime’s live iteration is typically a drums/bass/guitar trio, but in the studio, Rubin handles all three parts, plus keys, piano, vocals, percussion and anything else that makes the final cut.
Considering how well versed he is across a range of instruments and the rich, full sound evident on The New Regime’s albums, it’s no surprise that Rubin would love to follow his Academy Award-winning NIN bandmate Trent Reznor into the world of film and TV scoring. The self-described classical music obsessive has been studying orchestration for much of his professional life and feels that scoring could be an excellent medium to explore his broad taste in musical genres.
“I also have a huge interest in the electronic side of things, which is where Trent and [his co-composer] Atticus [Ross] do great work,” Rubin says. “I don’t mean to pigeonhole what they do. It’s a lot, but it’s a lot of different things. There’s obviously a lot of organic instrumentation, and they do phenomenal jobs with what they do, and they have very distinct talent — you can pick out what they do from the rest.”
WHO: The New Regime, opening for Silversun Pickups
WHERE: The Orange Peel, 101 Biltmore Ave., theorangepeel.net
WHEN: Wednesday, March 11, 8 p.m. $27