Nine Inch Nails Drummer Recalls ‘Terrifying Moment’ in Audition

Drummer Ilan Rubin looked back on his tryout for Nine Inch Nails, recalling the “terrifying moment” that took place during the audition.

Rubbing detailed the story during his recent appearance on the Tuna on Toast With Stryker podcast.

In 2008, Nine Inch Nails mastermind Trent Reznor contacted Rubin with an invitation.

“I got an email from him saying, ‘Hey, I’m in need of a drummer. … I watched you play at Reading [festival] last year and thought it was exciting. Are you interested?’” Rubin recalled. “And of course I was.”

You can watch the interview below.

Reznor gave the drummer eight songs to learn, then invited him to fly out to the east coast, where Nine Inch Nails were on tour at the time, to audition alongside the rest of the band.

Just before his flight, Rubin visited his doctor for a checkup. The doctor noticed that Rubin had never had bloodwork done and suggested a routine panel. “You know how it goes,” the drummer remembered. “They say, ‘Stay off your arm [following the blood draw]. Take it easy.’”

Rubin didn’t follow that advice and flew cross-country before engaging in a rigorous audition. “I’m a very confident drummer,” he noted. “I put my heart and soul and my body into it. So I just go, hit the ground running.” It didn’t take long for Rubin to realize something was wrong.

“I looked at my left arm, and it was visibly swollen,” he recalled. “It looked like some Popeye arm or something. It freaked me out. It terrified me. I’m like, ‘What the hell is going on here?’ And I got like three, four songs into [the audition]. It hadn’t affected my playing, but I was about to get to a point where I couldn’t hold a drumstick. And this had never happened in my life. So I’m like, biggest opportunity I’ve ever had, weirdest thing that has ever happened to me, happening at the same time.”

The drummer quickly realized he had a decision to make – try to play through the problem or call attention to it. “If I keep my mouth shut and all of a sudden I start playing poorly, that’s not a good look,” he remembered thinking to himself.

Rubin went to Reznor and explained the situation. “I will keep going until my arm either explodes or falls off,” he said. “I just want you to know in case it affects my playing.”

The NIN frontman took in the information, then excused himself to converse with the other bandmates. At this point, Rubin began to stress.

“I’m, like, did I just blow it?” he questioned. “Did I just make a horrific mistake in being honest?” Instead, Reznor suggested they continue the audition the following night, to which Rubin happily agreed. When that went well, he was invited to officially join the band. He’s held the position now for more than a decade.

“It sounds crazy to say, but I’ve been the longest-standing drummer [in NIN history],” Rubin noted. “I mean, anybody who knows Nine Inch Nails knows that there have been quite a few people in and out of that door, and it’s insane to me that I’ve been with the band for 13 years now.”

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