Darkest Hour Guitarist Talks Touring With Machine Head, Fatherhood + More
Schleibaum gave us the inside info on touring the world with Machine Head, being away from his infant daughter, maintaining a fulfilling creative balance and much more.
Check out Loudwire’s exclusive interview with Darkest Hour guitarist Mike Schleibaum below:
This tour with Machine Head and Suicide Silence has been pretty huge. What has the experience been like?
It’s been pretty sick. We went all over Europe first in November and December — and I don’t want to say that it was “the trip of a lifetime” or anything, but we got to go everywhere cool and we got to play arenas and the crowds were super awesome. It was so much fun being on tour with Machine Head, DevilDriver and Bring Me the Horizon. Then we get over here for the second leg and America is sort of like your comfort zone.
This tour has been a lot more eventful than the other tours we’ve been. We’re only 2 1/2 weeks in and he’s [points to a bandmate] already been robbed, we’ve already almost slammed into a semi truck with our van, we’ve had all sorts of different, long drives. It’s just more of an adventure when you’re touring in a van around the U.S. This whole touring cycle with Machine Head has been an adventure for sure.
Is this the first tour that you’ve been away from your infant daughter?
It’s the third.
Is it getting any easier to be away from your daughter?
I think my wife and I have a pretty good grasp on the teamwork it takes to balance leaving and staying. The thing that’s interesting is that Darkest Hour has toured so much over the past 15 years. We’ve toured so much that I think you’re going to see us not playing as many shows in America, but we’ll be making it matter when we do — because yeah, everybody is getting a little bit older, the band is a little bit older. The band is a lot more refined too, so it’s definitely more of an event now when we play. I cherish that because there’s something special and different about that now.
I think most musicians, when they go to college, sort of dream about one day dropping out. That’s the goal – to go to college and drop out …
That’s the goal? To go to college and drop out? [Laughs]
Well that was my goal. But you finished college even when the band was already signed.
We had signed to Victory Records and I was in college when we did the ‘So Sedated, So Secure’ record. Then the summer that I graduated was the summer we started touring full-time and really going at it.
What did you major in?
Social Work. It was a five-year program, which is accredited so you can get your Masters in six years. George Mason University, where I went, is a super cool school. They’ve got a really good Social Work program, so it was definitely valuable. It definitely shaped who I was as a musician even though the entire time I was there the only thing I wanted to do was not be there.
Do you think if Darkest Hour ever decide to call it a day, you would get into some sort of social work?
I don’t know. I think when you start working with people’s lives you need to be very focused at it. Not only dedicated, but very focused with doing it. I just enjoy the path I’m on right now and I’m not sure if I’ll be in a place where I can focus on that — what it takes to be a really good social worker. There’s a lot of time left in my life hopefully, so we’ll see. There is some social work that happens here behind the scenes. [Laughs]
Tell us about this writing project you’re doing with Filipino music magazine ‘Pulp.’
Our friend Vernon Go is the head editor and is also a promoter who has taken us over there. He contacted me about doing a monthly column in there just talking about the crazy s–t that happens on tour. I’ve been lending him some really good stories just because it’s really funny to chronicle this weird s–t that’s happened. I’ve given him our best stories for sure.
Could you ever see yourself becoming a professional writer?
Oh, I don’t think so. I can’t spell. [Laughs] I’d like to stay a professional musician, so I would like to not change professions, you know?
You do a ton of stuff. You play with other bands, you produce, you compose for TV, you write. Is there a creative balance there that’s necessary to keep Darkest Hour going?
I think if you want to have a well-rounded life when you’re living in this band fantasy world, you need to focus on other things so you don’t become one-dimensional. When people do become one-dimensional, they become hard to be around and they end up hating the thing that makes them one-dimensional. So I think having a creative life is about not depending on one thing, so that you act desperately. When you depend on something, you do things out of desperation sometimes if it’s the only thing you’re depending on.
Those things help me think a little more clearly about what my long-term goals are. If you want to make money you can go out and do a lot more awesome things and make a lot more money a lot faster. If you want to get famous, you can do that a lot of other easy ways too. You need to have the right goals to be able to look at them long-term.
Darkest Hour recently finished their North American tour with Machine Head and the band’s seventh studio album ‘The Human Romance’ is available at music stories everywhere.