Interview: Mike Schleibaum of Darkest Hour

Darkest Hour

SMI contributor Michael Baltierra conducted a phone interview with Mike Schleibaum, guitarist for the Washington, DC heavy metal band Darkest Hour. Topics included their latest release and the crowd funding campaign to finance it, touring and the state of the American metal scene, and what influences Darkest Hour.

SMI: You are currently on tour supporting your latest release, The Misanthrope. How has fan reaction been as well as the turnout?

Schleibaum: Oh man, the tour has been great! We are really surprised and overwhelmed by not only the response toward the latest album, but the turn out so far has been better than expected. The fans have been really into the new album – we think a lot of it has to do with the album being completely financed through crowd funding. As a band that’s been around for twenty plus years, to have the fans get involved the way they did in helping us make and release great records, is awesome.

Fan turn out has been amazing! The fans are genuinely stoked to be at the show. Not only are we playing new material, but die-hard fans of the band are loving that we are playing a lot of older material as well. The older fans are still way into us, because we have always been true to ourselves and our sound – they are the ones who get the presale tickets, but the albums and the merchandise. We definitely feel the love!

SMI: How are newer fans finding out about Darkest Hour?

Schleibaum: Oh man, the typical ways now – social media and touring. Newer bands who are young and hungry and are amazing musicians, we take them on the road and their fans are there to see them. They stick around and they get into us. We still have our older fans who still love us, many who may bring their kids to shows. We also do support slots on killer tours, such as when we supported Machine Head, which put us in front of fans who may have never heard of us.

SMI: The latest album, The Misanthrope, was released this past September was financed through crowd funding. Would you mind going into a little detail about that?

Schleibaum: Crowd funding is great to help bands who don’t have the finances or have limited finances to get an album out. We decided to take a different approach and had done pre-sales for the new album. We were going to record the album regardless, but we wanted the fans to get it straight from us instead of a reseller – cut out the middle man. We stayed in contact with the fans during the entire recording, to mixing to the delivery of the final product. So, though we didn’t need the financial backing, we wanted to push the boundaries, put out a killer album what wasn’t pieced together with loop tracks on a computer using Pro Tools. The sound, the sonic, nothing being heavily replied upon in post-production. We wanted a record that would showcase people who love to play. It’s not computerized or pieced together. We wanted to get back the old ways of recording. We tracked everything – every instrument, every vocal. I think we succeeded and the fans are beyond happy.

SMI: Is there any plans after this US tour run?  

Schleibaum: We have a few weeks off and then we head to Europe with Parkway Drive and Stick to Your Guns. Sure both bands may have a different style than us but it’s going to be great hitting the road with them.  We have a few other things we need to iron out that we can’t really go into to detail about – some good things lined up for the end of the year. Exciting stuff!

SMI: Lots of newer bands have been experimenting or playing extended ranges, meaning they play seven or eight string guitars and / or basses. What about Darkest Hour? Do you see you going down that road?

Schleibaum: Not that there is anything wrong with going extended, but I am a six string purist. We do tune down to C, so sticking with six string on the guitar and four on the bass just makes sense for us. With things like Axe Effects,  which can mimic a drop tune or pitch shift, it makes it easier to stick with our setups, and keeps from having to switch out guitars with different tuning which can be a pain sometimes.

SMI: Biggest difference that you can see between the music scene in the United States versus outside of the US?

Schleibaum: Metal is very well received outside of the US – fans here in the US seem to jump on a fad or the latest trends. Which is fine, people are free to listen to what they want. But, being that I identify as a musician playing with other musicians who are playing in a rock band, I take that very seriously. I also feel that there is and never will be a shortage of fans who love metal. Sure, everyone has their guilty pleasures but at the end of the day, metal heads are super loyal – like it’s a lineage or a rite of passage handed down by those who have come before them or before us. We want to be a band that can be remembered throughout the course of time. If after we’re done and gone, if people still talk about Darkest Hour, then it was all worth the time, sweat and the effort.

SMI: Any parting words or shout outs?

Schleibaum: We can’t thank everyone enough, those who constantly believe in use and continue to support us, through the crowd funding, to merchandise sales and for coming out and checking us out on tour.  Also thanks to our support bands who are with us on this run – Ringworm, Tombs and Rivers of Nihil. Looking forward to seeing everyone soon!

Tickets for Darkest Hour at Studio Seven on March 6th can be purchased by clicking here.