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Darkest Hour Guitarist Mike Schleibaum Talks Upcoming Album + Washington D.C. Music Scene

Darkest Hour – Publicity Photo

This past weekend, Full Metal Jackie welcomed Darkest Hour guitarist Mike Schleibaum to her radio show. Schleibaum talked about the band’s upcoming album, the Washington D.C. music scene and more. If you missed Jackie’s show, check out the full interview below:

Darkest Hour is returning; there is so much going on right now obviously working on a new record; there is going to be a rerelease of ‘The Mark of the Judas’ this fall. I know you guys are working on this new album right now. What is the upside of taking a break from the studio to tour with Killswitch Engage?

Well this album has been a little bit different than all of the other albums in the sense that we are working closer with the label Sumerian, the owner Ash who is an old friend of ours, he was a fan of the band in the ’90s when we started and that is why there is a re-release of the original album ‘The Mark of the Judas’ is coming out. It never got a fair shake in the end and Ash has been helping us kind of bring that old vibe back with a little bit of the new direction. The thing is that when you are in the studio putting it all together it gets to be pretty narcissistic in a weird way, everyone starts to go a little crazy and this tour could not have happened at a better time even though it made my life a disaster for ten days.

We have ten days to figure out how to do this. Taking a break has been the best thing. We finally got the album, the demo version of the album, about a week ago, so hearing it now there is a couple things we would change and you are just not as emotional about like ‘man, that guitar lead’, before it would have been like ‘dude, I want to change that.’ Or ‘dude, that’s awesome.’ Now it is like ‘oh, yeah,’ because everybody just had a minute to get less personal which is good because that doesn’t not drive the decisions in the right direction. That is a long answer.

Sumerian Records is going to be re-releasing ‘The Mark of the Judas’ this coming fall and the band is on tour with Killswitch Engage and a new album in the works for 2014 release. It is kind of a full circle to rerelease your first album while working on a new one. Creatively is it important to revisit the past to see, or in this case, hear the future?

That is a really interesting question. I was reading about the new Black Sabbath album and that the producer, I think Rick Ruben, made the band sit in the room and listen to their first couple of albums and it is funny because when you are in the band you don’t really listen to your albums as much as people think so sometimes people who are fans might have an actual better idea of how your band really sounds because they are listening to it all of the time.

What was interesting for me when we went back to the tapes and everything is that the stuff is really stripped down in the earlier band but just hearing how much you can get away with because it still was a song. I think getting a reflection of what you are doing to help you kind of focus on what you want to do is really important definitely.

You and John have been together on this Darkest Hour ride since high school, musically and personally, how are the two of you different now and what never seems to change?

Oh god, you just want to tear into the dirty stuff, huh? You know, John and I, it is like crazy, we are the best of friends and also we will just freak out on each other. We have been on the ride since high school as well as Mister Aaron Deal, who is sitting here with me, he is our newest bass player, he also was a friend of ours since high school and a lot has changed. John and me were both heavily into the straight-edge hardcore movement when we started the band when we were 15 and now that whole world has changed. Where is band is, where everybody is in in their life has changed, but I think the one thing that definitely hasn’t changed is that Pantera is still one of my favorite bands, Eddie Van Halen is still probably one of my favorite guitar players, although Angus Young is close, you know what I mean, the things that we still agree on, like the old classic albums we still like. Those bonding musical things are still there, John has totally grown with what he likes musically and so have I.

Those things sometimes come at word with each other and at other times they make something really amazing. I think the biggest thing that hasn’t changed is that we still love heavy metal and doing this stupid band thing for almost 20 years. We aren’t even talking about rock stars; we are just talking about just getting in the van and driving to the next show. I think so long as you have the passion to do that you can get through. The fact that now he really likes cooking, you know what I mean, that didn’t happen when we were younger and I like walking to the park with my daughter which I never thought I was going to be into.

You grew up.

Nah, not really. If you had seen how we have been acting, holy f—, that definitely, we have managed to do that little thing that everybody wants to do which is manage to look really good on paper but act like a kid all the time.

I think that is the secret.

That is what we are doing. We look really good on paper. It’s like ‘oh you got a job outside of this job, oh you got two jobs’, the whole thing. But man, if you were to hang out with us for a few hours, oh my god. That is all I am going to say about that.

There is so much important music that came from the DC area, Minor Threat, Bad Brains, Lamb of God, Henry Rollins, Dave Grohl, what facet of Darkest Hour is totally a reflection of being so close to that history?

It is really strange because, you know, here is something interesting, the singer Jesse from Killswitch, he plays in a Bad Brains shirt every night and we were talking about Dischord Records and he is like a fan, this music has touched his life, he likes heavy metal but he likes his punk rock and his hardcore and his old DC 70′s thing. The thing that is funny is that I know all of these people, they are still all around. [Minor Threat / Fugazi singer-guitarist] Ian MacKaye is still paying in bands all the time around the city, his sister is a really good friend of mine and she is very musically active. The Dischord office, anybody can go in there and drop off their albums themselves with their online thing. It is weird. I think that that shaped everything about the band in strange way because the idea when we were kids that we could get in a van, call someone up in Maine and say we are going to come play your basement. Even though we are playing heavy metal or whatever, there is still that mentality of doing that that was all passed down from bands that were all around the city.

All you do as a musician is you look and see if anyone has done anything well. In DC you are the big bands, how did they do it and what did they do, that is what you do when you are a smaller band. We have really had a good lighthouse for what we were doing because there are great bands and there are great people and it is a smaller city than people think. It is hard to do well in DC, bands can come in there and get no love because it is just this strange place and we are happy to have been a part of it. We have played benefit shows for Ft. Reno Park which is a big DC punk staple there and for Smash records, which is an old record. I mean, we have just been lucky to have been able to be this metal-core band to get in there because of where we are from because there are so many other people who do what we do and that, to them, they are shocked by it because to them it is real rock stardom. It is like rock stardom with ethics, the DC crowd. I really think it had a lot to do with how the band got started and how the band makes some decisions today.

New album coming out in 2014; anything you can tell us about it?

I can tell you that it is the work of some men. Some men that have been listening to heavy metal for a really long time. It is going to be a little bit different than any Darkest Hour album but it is also going to be a little bit different than the music that we hear a lot of bands playing. A lot of death metal, where is it? What does it mean now? Really you look at the kings of melodic death metal, do they even play melodic death metal? Is it shot as a music in general? Have all of the ideas been done? I think what is happening is that it is an awesome album in that genre and it is also totally different. I am pretty stoked. It is also a little scary. But I think that being excited and being scared might be the only way to do something totally new at this point. The other times that we didn’t do anything new, we just did what we wanted to do or what we thought everybody wanted. This time it is definitely a little bit scary. That is what I can tell you.

This coming weekend, Full Metal Jackie will welcome Erik Danielsson of Waitain to her show. Full Metal Jackie can be heard on radio stations around the country — for a full list of stations, go to fullmetaljackieradio.com.

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