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Darkest Hour Guitarist – ‘We’re Not Afraid to Challenge People’

Darkest Hour Guitarist – ‘We’re Not Afraid to Challenge People’

The new Darkest Hour album, Perpetual Terminal, may challenge some fans, but guitarist Mike Schleibaum says it has been rewarding that their fans seem to like it.

Schleibaum was reflecting finding inspiration after a long hiatus with Full Metal Jackie for her weekend radio show.

The guitarist also speaks to what a revelation their Patreon has been, reminding them of the connection and things shared with their audience. “This real energy behind completing this album was the energy we felt when we went back out on tour,” he says of reconnecting with their fans.

Schleibaum also reflects on his biggest misconception about what the music industry is and offers up his favorite vinyl findings in collecting over the years.

Check out more of the chat below.

It’s Full Metal Jackie. With us this week, from Darkest Hour is Mike Schleibaum. The band has a banger of a new album called Perpetual Terminal and this amazing tour to support it. Mike, this is the band’s tenth album, and perhaps coincidentally or not, the album is focused on themes of survival and rebirth. Where was your head at going into making this record, and how long before you started seeing some recurring themes?

Our heads have been all over the place. I’m not gonna lie. It’s been seven years, so the heads have been turned in a lot of different directions. But it wasn’t until kind of post pandemic when we were doing a celebration tour for our Deliver Us record that we sort of got into focus again.

We were like, “Oh, these people that love our band are like us. They love albums. They love to dig into the details. We don’t need to play the game of the internet. We don’t need to do singles or, you know what? Let’s just make a really great album.”

Then at that moment, we dove in and lyrically, it was really tough at first because I think for me and John, he likes to take control of that, but we’re also not a total democracy. Like, me and him will go at it hard.

And it kind of was just on him, like I said over and over, this album needs to mean something. You know what I mean? This has to. You have to have something to say. Where we’re at in our lives, how long we’ve been doing this, how much it’s been happening. Like, how do you have nothing to say? Of course he did. And it wasn’t a minute until we got into the lyrics before we started to see, like, “Oh, this album’s about starting over. Dude, that’s all we’ve ever known.”

But then after a minute, that didn’t make sense. Cause we never gave up. We’ve been here the whole time. People are saying, “Oh, Darkest Hour is back. You’re back. It’s so cool. You’re back.” It’s like, man, we never left. We’ve been making livestreams and been on tour for two and a half years.

Before the pandemic, then survived coming at people live over the Internet the whole time during it. And it’s kind of like, “No, this album’s about survivalism, you know? Or is it about both? Or is it about how those are at odds with each other? I mean, which is it then?”

Then we had a theme and the songs really break down into kind of other things that really mean personal things or make statements, and under the umbrella of those major ideas.

I also think whenever I talk about the lyrics and the themes, John really wants me to encourage people to read the lyrics themselves and think about what it means to them. Because a lot of times these lyrics are written in a way where they could be about what he’s saying, but they could also be about what you’re living, you know? And I think that’s what makes them good, and I think that’s what makes the themes on the album good. And I think people will connect, you know?

Darkest Hour, “Perpetual Terminal”

Mike Schleibaum from Darkest Hour with us, We’re talking about the new Perpetual Terminal album. And Mike, you’ve discussed killing parts of yourself in order to make new parts and survive at this far into your career. It’s safe to say you’ve learned to adapt. Looking back, what do you think was your biggest moment of evolution in the group?

Can I give you two answers? Because there’s two that just hit me. Definitely the first thing that comes to mind is Ozzfest 2004. We did that. We were the last band added. It was Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, Slayer. I’m talking about all the lineups that matter of those bands, not that Slayer’s lineup with Gary Holt isn’t awesome. And not that I don’t love Ozzy solo, but this was Black Sabbath with Black Sabbath. Judas Priest, the way I know Judas Priest, Slayer, all four of them. It was insane. Superjoint Ritual, Slipknot, Hatebreed, Lamb of God and then all of our buddies from the clubs like Bleeding Through, Every Time I Die, Unearth. I’m leaving out Shadows Fall was probably on the year before. It’s just like so many bands. That was just such a defining moment for this band to be able to watch Black Sabbath every night, to be able to see basically the kings of this music, how they do things, who are like, how do they operate. The whole thing was a jolt to the system.

Before that, we had come from a really hardcore punk, DIY underground world that we knew so well. By that point, it was almost comfortable. And for us, if we had stayed there any longer, I think we would have just either ended or it would have just gone real badly.

But instead, this door just opened up and it was like, “Oh, hey, check out Judas Priest live. Like, you feel this energy and then all of a sudden you’re hooked.” You’re like, “Oh, my God, this is like starting over, you know?”

The other time, because I told you I was going to give you two, was the time that we met Devin Townsend.

We knew of Devin Townsend and of course we knew of him. He produced two of our more iconic records Undoing Ruin and Deliver Us. And we had never really met until the first time when we made Undoing Ruin and just getting to know him, seeing him play guitar in front of you, like, seeing him take an idea you already thought was good and just turn it into magic in front of you, I mean, it’s like, to this day, I’ll never forget that.

Those moments, just seeing him drunk karaoke Bryan Adams is incredible. And then you’re around something like that as a band, as a unit, and it just really forms kind of almost a new core memory that you draw on whenever you move forward creatively.

I think those two experiences definitely. If you ever meet Devin Townsend, you know what I mean? If you ever play with Black Slayer, Judas Priest or Slipknot, you’ll know what I mean.

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MNRK Heavy


Mike, it’s gotta be rewarding to see the fan support. And I know this album came together with the help of fans through Patreon. What has it meant to build up that following and see the returns that allowed you to do this album without a label initially behind it? And how does it keep you on your toes to have this Patreon as a source of connecting with your fans?

The Patreon’s a labor of love. I’m not gonna lie – I hate the computer. I love being in a van so much that I will go on the computer. What surprised me is when I got on there and I was doing it as a band, I realized that I remembered that I do really love meeting people who like this band and meeting people who just love heavy metal or hardcore or death metal, whatever you want to call it.

People just love music as much as me. It’s their life. This real energy behind completing this album was the energy we felt when we went back out on tour. When people love this band and you see that they love it in the way that you love other bands, it’s like a drug you can’t explain. And I think that when those people appreciate what you did first, it’s a shock of relief.

It’s like a hit of relief plus happiness. We’re like, “This is great. This is what I wanted to achieve as an artist.” So, I mean, at the same time, we have taken risks on this record where we want to even break out of the box.

Still ten albums in, I think that’s still important to note that we are still not afraid to challenge what people who like the band, what they feel or think or want to hear. But at the same time, we are not afraid to say it feels nice when people like it.

Mike, one of the stronger tracks on this new album is “Societal Bite,” which you’ve called a nod to the survivors. The world does us no favors sometimes, but this one’s for those who fight the good fight and push on through. And this feels a bit more personal. Do you have a survival story that feeds into this song?

I definitely think that everyone’s got their personal one. Talking about mine, I think it’s important to note that I feel pretty privileged to have had the trials I’ve had to face. The stuff that I feel like that weighs me down in comparison to things that you see happening in  the world seems to pale. But, as an artist, as a person that’s dedicated his entire life to being in a band, it’s not necessarily been easy.

Anybody who’s done anything they love enough to want to dedicate their life to it knows that feeling of both just love and disgust all at the same time, addiction and freedom all lined up together.

I think that’s the piece, that’s my struggle in there is this band and this journey has been my love the whole time I’ve done it. But it’s also been a struggle to remain like a regular person, have a family, have some kind of grounding in reality, you know?

So I think that surviving the game of this crazy life I’ve been trying to live for 30 years and not either burn out or spin out or destroy everything around me has been my challenge. But I also know that John’s challenge that he speaks of in the song is much different.

I know that the people that have connected to it also kind of have had different stories of survivalism that connect to the song. So I love it for that, but I also love it for the fact that it was one of the songs that just happened.

Iit was like, oh, sweet. That’s weird. It’s weird. The whole thing’s weird, but it’s cool. Like, boom. As an artist, to quote Bob Ross, it just was a beautiful, happy accident. It’s never better when that happens.

Darkest Hour, “Societal Bite”

Mike, there’s a quote in the press materials with the philosophy of finding life and living it till the wheels fall off. You guys clearly love what you do. I wanted to ask, though, what was maybe the biggest surprise or misconception about what you thought this career would be back when starting the band and what it actually is.

I definitely think when we started the band, we thought we didn’t need a goal. The optimal place to be was really not in the driver’s seat, but just being able to handle the band creatively, having all these people around you who could do a bunch of the details and just being able to delegate, really doing the band to a whole bunch of other people that you could afford while you got to sit around in your soft pants all day and jam thrash riffs and watch TV.

But as we went through every phase of our life in this band, we’ve been in the van for 30 years, but it’s also been basically since I could drive a car. I think how long that we’ve been doing a van.

The biggest surprise to this whole thing has been that it isn’t that journey to get to fans. It’s actually waking up at 5AM cause everything’s happening, and realizing you don’t have any time to waste if you wanna make this thing that you love a reality. It’s being able to keep lights turned on and basically keep people from having to have other jobs that can creatively do this thing and enjoy it. It’s realizing that all the details that go into running a band and all the things we’ve had to do to survive have really made us love doing the band, because you get to control those little details and make them all about the band that you’re doing.

I think that the technology has allowed us to kind of take the grip of controlling the management of the band in a lot of ways. I think that years later, instead of sitting in the back and just being the guys in the band, we’re not only the guys in the band, but we manage the band.

We’re in control of the band. We’re watching everything, and we’re right here. So when you interact with us anywhere, you really do interact with us. And that makes it real and honest, and I think in the end, that’s something we can be proud of. We thought we had the wrong idea what this game was about when we started, that’s for sure.

READ MORE: Billie Eilish Shouts Out Her Love for Darkest Hour

Mike, in addition to the new record, you recently had a chance to reissue the Godless Prophets and the Migrant Flora album on vinyl. Got to ask if you are a big vinyl collector or if you have a preferred format in listening to music. And if you are a collector, what’s the favorite vinyl pieces in your music collection?

Oh, my favorite vinyl. Oh, man. Okay, first of all, I have some really cool old Ozzy vinyl that I love. I love the artwork of it, and everything about it reminds me of when I was too young to be allowed to have it, you know? I have this really awesome pressing of the record No Rest for the Wicked. And Speak of the Devil, that’s what I’m talking about. It’s the live Ozzy record that’s not on Spotify. Brad Gills plays guitar on it. It’s just incredible album. I got this pressing of it, this vinyl, I got it in Europe. Man, it sounds so awesome. It’s the best version of it. So, I definitely love that record.

Then also I have this really amazing vinyl of hip hop record called R.A.P. Music by Killer Mike that someone gave me. I don’t have that many hip hop records on vinyl, but it just sounds incredible. I love putting it on the turntable and it’s so clear and has so much bottom end. It makes me rethink a lot of the heavy metal records that I love and the way that they sound. So I love that record, too.

Then also, I have this really awesome UFO record. UFO was not on my radar, but doing all these tours in Europe, people hand me stuff. And I remember someone handed me this UFO record. He handed it to me and I remember thinking it was so weird that someone randomly outside the venue give me this record. So it means a lot to me because it’s literally how I discovered UFO on my turntable. That doesn’t happen in an age where you can just listen to everything. Cause I didn’t think about it at the time. Brought it on tour here and put it on. It was a really, like a really cool experience. That’s three I can go on. Cause I got a lot of records in there. But those are my favorite.

Darkest Hour, “Enter Oblivion”

Darkest Hour’s new record Perpetual Terminal. Pick up the new record. Mike, thank you so much for taking the time. Good luck out there and looking forward to seeing you soon.

Thanks to Darkest Hour’s Mike Schleibaum. Perpetual Terminal is available now. You can keep up with Darkest Hour through their Patreon, Facebook, X, Instagram and Spotify accounts. Find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie’s weekend radio show here.

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Gallery Credit: Mike Schleibaum, Darkest Hour