Interview with Mike Schleibaum (Guitar)
Interview conducted by Scott Murray
Date online: June 5, 2003
Hey Mike, how's it going?
So how's the road treating you these days?
Pretty good. We've only got about three more days left of the Haunted, but ya everything's going well.
Let's start on the new album then. Personally, I've been a fan of your previous albums but this album is just LEAGUES ahead of those two. What are your thoughts on the new album? Were you totally blown away after hearing it for the first time?
Well thanks for the compliments. For us it was weird because the songs developed the entire time so it'd just be like "Oh fuck man, that's sweet!" Ya know? I feel stronger about it when I listen to it now. I feel stronger about it than I do the other records. Sure, you never really get the full impact of a record until like a year after it's been out, after everything's said and down and you just sit down and think about it. But we're really happy with it. When we were writing it there were moments when we just said to ourselves "wow we've got some really good stuff here." We were really excited about it.
So you do feel that this is your strongest material?
Ya, I mean there are things I like about the other records but this is my favourite one. But I mean it could just be because now we're writing songs closer to what we want to be writing.
How is the material being received by the critics and live audiences who may not be too familiar with the band?
Everyone seems to be really excited about it. The press, some people were expecting us to go to Sweden and start rapping or something, bringing some keyboards in or singing or whatever. They were expecting some HUGE changes, ya know, metamorphosis. But really the point was to turn it up a couple notches. We really like the style that we play so we're not going to change it. The only criticism that I think is being thrown out is that people were expecting it to be extremely different or something, which for them would equal extremely evolved. But for us we didn't wanna like change the band's sound totally, we just wanted to write a really good thrash record.
I've been seeing this quite a bit around the metal forums and such, people passing off the band because they don't like metalcore and that's what some writers have dubbed your sound. There seems to be quite a bit of genre confusion when it comes to Darkest Hour, so how do you feel about that? Is labelling a band that important?
Well it's gonna happen, you can't really stop that. But at the same time these people that have these issues aren't gonna know what to think when we get back on tour with Antiflag. That's like a totally punk band. I would be fine with people arguing on the Internet over if the band is punk, hardcore, death metal, whatever.
All those terms seem to get tossed around when it comes to discussing the band and people stating why they aren't interested.
Ya, but hopefully these people figure it out, that when they move out of their parent's house and get out of highschool that they realize music is what it is, it doesn't need a label to define it or whatever.
So you don't feel it's important to plug a label over the band? It's more about "we're Darkest Hour and that's what's important."
Ya, we don't think of ourselves as one way or the other. Everybody seems to have some way they want to label and market us, so we just let them. They can do what they want.
I'd like to talk about the sound of the new album and the trip to Sweden to record it with Fredrik Nordstrom. I'm wondering where the influence on the latest record's sound came from. Was this the band's intention or did Nordstrom kind of guide you in this direction? Or maybe a bit of both?
The songs were a lot more us. But he was totally in charge. We never even had a discussion about how we wanted certain instruments to sound. Like, here are the songs and he goes and tells us how he wants them recorded to sound best. We just let him do what he wanted to do. It was really good for us because it gave us the ability to really trust someone, given the freedom to make the band sound as good as it could have.
So he kind of pointed Darkest Hour in the right direction on this one?
Ya, basically if there wasn't something we couldn't agree on with him, the hand went to him. He obviously knows about recording records a lot more than we do.
What was the experience like, heading over to Sweden and working with Nordstrom on the album?
It was really exciting. There's a bit of history there ya know? It was also cool to be away from home and just be isolated so we could focus on the record. And Gothenburg is a really nice place and we got to visit a lot of cool places and make new friends. It was an awesome experience.
How about working with some of the most notable names in the Swedish scene, such as Tomas Lindberg and Peter Wichers among others?
It was awesome because these people were just people. They like to hang out and they're really nice. It was great not to have to deal with attitudes and I think a lot of people would be surprised just how normal and laid back those dudes are.
If you could go back now, is there anything you would change about the album?
If there was one thing, personally I would have gone in a different direction on the artwork. We didn't get to do exactly what we wanted to do, but we understand why. It's not necessarily that important an aspect of a record for us.
What did you have in mind?
We had an idea to use a special ink on the cover, but it just costed too much. It's kind of a stupid nerdy thing to want to change, but that would be the one thing I would go back and redo.
But other than that you're satisfied with the album?
Oh ya, we're all really satisfied with the music.
What's the significance of the title Hidden Hands of a Sadist Nation?
It's kind of a spin off on the culture of violence brewing in America and how they are a nation obsessed with violence. The lyrics kind of speak for the title really.
The theme is definitely a take on American diplomacy and violence as of late, with songs like the Patriot Virus and others hinting at that with their titles.
Unfortunately, the press sees that and does what they want to do with it, so it's a shame you can't say what you want to say without that criticism.
Even lyrical content can have people categorizing you based on it.
Now supposedly the song Oklahoma is about you guys getting arrested there, what's the story behind that?
It's actually really long, but the short answer is that we were wrongfully arrested in the state of Oklahoma for possessing drugs that we didn't have and paraphernalia that wasn't illegal. They threw us in jail without reading us our rights and we had to pay fines, ya know basically saying we were just paying tickets but it turns out the tickets cost $5400 so that went on our criminal record so we definitely got the shit end of the stick on that one.
Totally shitty. Could you give me a history of the band up until now, just for those who may not be familiar with Darkest Hour?
Ya, we started in 1995 as a four piece metalcore band, just straight almost Earth Crisis sounding. The band went through a bunch of different lineup changes. In 1998 our first record The Mark of the Judas was sort of released and we really started touring then. Then we signed to Victory and the first real record we put out was So Sedated So Secure and that was in 2000 I think. And ever since So Sedated came out we became a real functioning band. Before that we were just aimlessly putting out records and touring, but ever since the first Victory record we have been focused as a band. The main records are the newest one and So Sedated on Victory, and the first one Mark of the Judas on Art Monk. We have some various clips and such too. People can check out our website too for all this.
When you started, did you have any idea of how far you would want to go with the band?
Not really. Well your goals evolve as the band does. When we first started we wanted to play one hardcore show. We played one hardcore show and then we wanted to do a one week tour. Then we did a one week tour then we wanted to do a U.S. tour. We did that and then put out a record, and then we wanted to tour again. I mean like, the goals always change so I don't think we'll be satisfied until it's over.
Is there any meaning behind the name Darkest Hour, or did it just sound cool at the time?
Honestly, we were like 15, it sounded cool and a lot better than the other crappy names we had. At this point ya know, years later we decided we didn't like it and might rather have something with a meaning, we just put too much into it. Most metal bands have names that don't mean shit anyway.
Ya that's true. What were some of the other names?
Ah dude I don't remember.
What got you interested in playing music and wanting to be in a band?
AC/DC, that's all you have to know. I saw them on MTV and I knew I wanted to play guitar.
What were your first band experiences like? Did you have much experience going into Darkest Hour?
I had one other band that played two shows and broke up while we were in highschool. The next band I was Darkest Hour, so I never really had any other band experiences aside from this one.
What albums have you been listening to lately? Any recent releases catching your ear?
Well I really like the new Haunted record. I really like the new Donnas record too, I know that sounds weird. We've also been listening to a lot of this band Karate lately, and a lot of Mogwai. That's kind of what gets played around here. If I'm driving it's gonna be something a bit stupider then what the others might put on.
It's nice to have a diverse taste.
Ya, no one can agree on anything to listen to.
If you were to cover one song, what song would that be and why?
Ya know, we've never covered a song because we can't answer that question because of what I just said actually. If I could cover any song it would be For Those About To Rock, that would be an awesome song to cover. But we all have different tastes in music and we can't decide. There is a Beatles song that we decided a while ago that we would like to cover called Eleanor Rigby. I think that would make an awesome metal song.
I think I heard a band release a cover of that a couple of years ago. I can't recall the name but it was one of those Marilyn Manson knock-off groups.
Ya I'm sure it's been done a million times. It's a good song though.
So what will the band be doing for the rest of this year?
Well I dunno. Right now we can only think a month ahead because that's the way plans are made. We're just gonna keep on touring and see what happens.
Anything you'd like to say in closing?
Just thanks a lot for doing this interview and we love Canada. We're coming back soon so we wanna hang.
Great, thanks a lot for your time Mike.
Ya same man. Thanks again.
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|Review: Hidden Hands of a Sadist Nation|
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