Interview: Darkest Hour, Live Music Hall (Köln)3. Dezember 2014
Mike Schleibaum – Guitar
Lest We Forget: After 3 years you finally released your new self-titled album “Darkest Hour”. Why did it take 3 years after your last release?
Mike: One it was partially intentional like every DARKEST HOUR -Album in the past that came out about a year and a year and a half after the last one. But we were a kind of like at the end of a phase for really like we put out The Human Romance, that was also sent on media here. We tried something different, we’ve been on a victory for about a decade. So we were at a kind of just looking like: What can we do, what should we do now? We are not on a record label, we’ve been around forever, we just changed rhythm section – we got a new bass player and a new drummer –, so we decided just a kind of like to put the breaks on. We’re not getting younger, you know [laughing]. We just wanted to put out an awesome album, a sort of that gets people attention, something that we never did before. We really wanted to push down the barriers. Well, that took a minute. You write about your songs and as you’re writing the songs you have to learn, you know we have a new drummer and a new bass player, so you have to learn together how the new group is gonna kind to act.
After we wrote the first set of songs we had a couple that was really good, you know. Those are on the album now. And then there was a couple like…. eeeehm … And then we started talking to the labels, and Sumerian came involved. We’ve known the owner for a really long time, he’s an old friend. This changed the whole kind of tone of the conversation. They were involved now, and they were a kind of: Look, we’re behind you, you don’t just need to make like a melodic death metal DARKEST HOUR-record. Won’t you write a bunch more songs, and really get out of your box?
And that’s why some of the other kind of crazier songs are on the album, like the song with the crossing stuff come in. Because: instead having a label that was a sort of like we want the eight DARKEST HOUR-Album, delivered on this day, we want it to be a DARKEST HOUR -Album, that’s what we’ve payed for – they were like: Let’s push this. That took a little bit of time for all that to happen.
I can tell you: When it was happening I was very anxios about, “fuck, let’s go”. Because I was not used to writing and waiting and writing and waiting. But now in retrospect I think it was definitely good, because it’s how were we able to make it seem so different. I know some people on the outside now can’t tell the differences, and some people on the inside are like: oh it’s so different. It’s very strange when you talk to people like what their take is and what we did. But: We needed that time.
We have been defined as a band that sounds like At the Gates for almost two decades. Then after a while they came and said “oh, they also sound a little bit like In Flames”, “oh, they also sound a little bit like that”, but this album is definitely a stepwards, it’s just as american metal sounding as it is european metal. And it took a minute for a kind of that just to break apart and just to, I guess: refind where we’re about.
Lest We Forget: Next year will be your 20th band anniversary. What would be one of the things you can think of with a smile in your face if someone asks you what you did in past 20 years?
Mike: Well – that’s a good question…. I mean, for me the 2004 Ozzfest that we did with Slayer, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Superjoint Ritual, Dimmu Borgir, Slipknot, Lamb of God – it was just crazy.
That was the first big festival tour that DARKEST HOUR had done, where we were playing arenas and we were around like real… you know: fucking real rock stars.
Lest We Forget: And you are one of them …
Mike: … well, we were definitely not one of them, but were definitely one of the people with Lamb there on the tour. That for me was: We are gone from the underground to… like now I was in the vicinity of my idols. A kind of later on would have been the first European MACHINE HEAD-Tour, because: as far as Europe we have done big festivals we have never done a tour of hockey arenas, packed with three-, fourthousand people, so: that too was a kind of a milestone.
Man, we were very different before we did that Ozzfest. We have changed as people. Once you see how big bands operate, it’s a kind of learning and you take it all in. So, I think that were two of our biggest experiences. I mean, of course the first time we came to Europe was awesome, because experience in that was new , first like we went to Japan was amazing, first time we went to Australia… I mean: Getting the experiences of different cultures and go around the world definitely is the biggest gift at the whole thing.
First time that we went to Japan was fucking crazy. And we were playing in arena, but it was just so insane to be there. Now the people know the band is… you know… It felt like unreal. It still feels real when… like yesterday, standing at the mercy after the show, some girl comes up and – we were in Austria – she says in a very thicken german accent, that she was a great squaw since she was like seven, and you think: what? – But that’s cool, you know. It’s cool to make an impact.
Lest We Forget: It’s not your first gig in Germany. What was the first thing you recognize about Germany and what do you like the most about Germany?
Mike: Well, the internet has a sort of circumvenit a lot of differences that allows people to follow the same trends and stuff. But I will say that like… you still have outside of the US, we are hypersensitive to trends, american kids in general are more like: “Oh, I like that! And oh, I like that! And oh, I like that!”, changing very fast, whereas Europeans… I think it has to do with that the culture is a little less disposable. They hang on to things. If they like something, they will go back and see it again. I talked about it. Whereas Americans, we really love an album for a little bit, and then get the next one, and then get the next one, so I think the biggest difference amongst many the western cultures is that music is taking a little bit more reference still here. But it’s changing, everybody is following the American way. So eventually… I feel, it’s coming. But for now there is a real attention to the details.
Lest We Forget: What do you remember about your last gig in Germany?
Mike: We are playing in a lot of scene clubs, so when I wake up I don’t know exactly where I’m going. But you do see a lot of scene people. That was interesting on that tour with MACHINE HEAD is they have loyal die-hard fucking cool serious fans. MACHINE HEAD is everything that they own. But they are openminded. SLAYER-Fans are a little bit like that. MACHINE HEAD-Fans like melodical metal, they are openminded, they are very friendly as far as I get it on the crowd. So the one thing that I notice is they are consequently meeting us there on the last tour, and I think that’s really cool. Because it’s hard to get that. I don’t know if you realize how hard it is to get people to come back and be experienced of the band for a multiple years in there lifes. Especially in heavy metal, because there people move on and move out, grow out of it in some very way…
Lest We Forget: but you don’t …
Mike: … unfortunately not, yeah. [laughs] We won’t grow out, we’re just kids. That’s why we’re watching ramble all day and playing with toys.
Lest We Forget: 7 albums yet and more than 100 songs – do you have a favourite one to perform on stage?
Mike: Well, you know, it’s funny… It’s always about the newer stuff, you are always exited about that. I mean, I really like to do those songs we’ve always played a thousand ones, it’s a safer one, like Undoing Ruin, I’m not saying it’s a hit or anything, but we always play it. That’s comfortable because you always know that people will like it. The same time I think: when you’re writing theses songs you always think: “when it’s live it’s gonna be like this”. So I think whenever you have a new album, you’re always focused on it.
Right now I like to play the first song of the album, it’s so superweird, in a different tuning. And I’d just liked to play the… we haven’t yet played the acoustic one with the female vocals, and I really want to do that. I just can’t getting out of the comfort zone. But I know I’m doing that for a lot of people … [laughs]
Lest We Forget: Are there some songs you wouldn’t be able to play on stage right now without texts or chords?
Mike: Oh oh oh yeah, there is plenty songs we couldn’t just roll out. We have a sort of master of modern technology that allows people to do anything they want. I do think, the song By the Starlight on the new album, it’s got a lot of singing and it’s really acoustic. We haven’t been able to do it yet. This is like Stepping Into The Wilderness where John sings a melody on the top of everything. It’s definitely new, and it’s challenging, because after being more than twenty years just like screaming your face off, you know what I mean, the whole set, that becomes I guess something new.
Lest We Forget: What was the darkest hour in your life?
Mike: Oh God… eeeeh… let’s see…. [laughs] … I’d like to stick to the worst moments of the bands career. Because that doesn’t get as dark. – We were robbed one time by 12.000 Dollar in Canada. We’ve been arrested several times…
Lest We Forget: why??
Mike: You know, a lot of times have to do with either noise or maybe somebody is… impolite maybe a little bit to talking back to a cop or something… But it’s usually nothing violent! [laughs]. We have also been in some pretty serious scary situations, almost vanracks, sliding off on a road on ice, looking at the edge of a mountain and thinking we’re gonna die. There were definitely multiple neardeath-experiences, traveling, you know, couple of plane flights that were really scary. This is really hard how we get through this, but, you know, we always seem to have made it.
Lest We Forget: You’re still alive!
Mike: Right now! I am! And I’m prayful for that!
Lest We Forget: What is the best merch you’ve ever seen?
Mike: Mastodon had this beach towel, that was killer you know what I’m saying, how on a big beach tale, and it had a shark on it and everything, that was awesome.
Also there was this band, called The Unband! Not very famous, but they are for me. they have this heads, with little hands on it that clapped for The Unband. You could buy them and everybody would stand in the crowd and I clap of their heads. Somebody has to steal that idea and do it again for sure.
Lest We Forget: … you have to do it and everybody will buy it then …
Mike: We’re in the middlesonic-CDs, so – we’re working on that [laughs]
Lest We Forget: If you could choose to live in any film, in which movie would you like to live?
Mike: Well, I won’t gonna pick a porn out, because that is Mikes obvious choice. Aaaahm – Starwars?… Ahhhm – no: Startreck! Because: Startreck has a very positive outlook on the future of technology. Starwars is pretty bleak: Darth Vader, rebellion, shit going on, you know… I wanna go with Startreck. I would live in a Startreckmovie.
Lest We Forget: What’s your best breakup-line?
Mike: Oh – fuck… that’s a good question… [turns around to Mike Carrigan] Mike , do you have a good breakup-line?
Mike C.: You give her a cake and say „it’s over“
Mike: aaah – that’s no line, that’s more a kind of… a breakup-technique. Well… We’re gonna over it with buying a cake and writing “it’s over” on it, but I don’t know if that’s the best breakup…. We don’t have a lot of experiences in breaking up with people. We’re crazy like that. We stick around.
THIS OR THAT
CD or vinyl?
Mike: mp3. I’ll tell you why: I don’t like to collect things. I have in my house boxes and boxes and boxes of CDs. Which I do realize: when you hold them and it makes you see a physical thing that the music became which I appreciate, but – this is my personal, like me – I don’t like to have things. So, to have your whole music discovered on an iPad, and right now I could put on Toto, or I could put on Slyer, or I could put on Metallica or anything else – it’s all right there, you know. I’m addicted with that. I guess a child at the future nats that, because: I just like to have everything with me, but not a lot of stuff. Vinyl is big, and CDs take up a lot of space and of plastic, so: mp3.
Lest We Forget: but the booklets!….
Mike: I know! And you know it: lyrics. Lyrics are important, too. Reading lyrics. When I was younger, especially with this screaming bands and that shit, I asked: what the fuck are they saying? In our days you listen to enough stuff then. At least when somebody is speaking in another language I must read an interpretation of it. But no I can usually hear a song a few times and pick up the words, you know. Which is also cool, because you’re not just reading like listening to the way that person is saying stuff.
Tour or studio?
Mike: I wanna say tour. Studio is brutal, man: lots of screaming, lots of eating bad, staying up all night – so I wanna say tour. Although there’s also lot of screaming and lot eating bad and staying up all night on tour, too. They are pretty similar. But I’m going with tour.
Hamburger or cheeseburger?
Mike: Definitely cheeseburger. I know a lot of people who were now just at hamburger, but I always go cheeseburger. With pickles, by the way, I like pickles on it. If you would say pickles or no pickles I would say: pickles.
Day or night?
Mike: Definitely night. Today we woke up early, but most days I only see an hour or two the sunlight over here. Because we wake up at like twelve or one, we get in, we watch a movie or just show out, you step outside until three thirty. And then you’re starting the guitar and then also at five o’clock you got your engineering saying: Start to stay up! Stay up! It’s five a.m.! So you’re right when the sun’s coming out. It’s a war of empires, that’s for sure.
Apple or Android?
Mike: I’m definitely an Apple-Mac-person, you know. I don’t know – I can’t come in other than I love with my Mac- and Apple-products too much.
Mike: Definitely shower. This is interesting, because: I do know some bath people in the band, and to me it’s very disturbing to think about taking a bath in any place that’s not my tub, that I haven’t cleaned, you know. So for me especially in the situations of worrying, like to check up the shower we’ve got today, you would definitely not want to sit down over there. When you’re in this masstouring apartments you want to go into the shower with flipflops or your shoes on, trying not to touch anything, get out there as fast as possible. – No bath on tour, okay? It’s a bad idea! [laughs]
First milk or first cornflakes?
Mike: Aaaaahhhhmmmmm…….. I would always put the cornflakes in first. Because: I don’t want too much milk, you know. I like my one to be mostly cornflakes to a little bit of milk, cookie crisp, really sugary american cereals. I love this! It’s really bad for you, but that’s my favorite cereal. We don’t need breakfast that often, because as we wake up at one, so we normally skip breakfast.
We’re doing cornflakes! The other day we had a whole box, but we were shitfaced drunken at 4 a.m. and the only thing left was a box of cornflakes. It’s now currently over the back of the bus…