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Darkest Hour Guitarist Talks Making Facemasks Fashionable, Challenges of Running a Patreon

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With touring unlikely to resume any time soon, much of the talk in the metal industry lately has centered around how the hell we’re all gonna stay afloat financially with the industry’s main economic driver completely gone.

Darkest Hour guitarist Mike Schleibaum was our guest on The Quarantinecast, and he had some thoughts on that issue, among them the band’s new Patreon (which they launched right before the pandemic hit) and the marketability of facemasks, which a number of bands are pushing right now.

Talking about the current trend of masks, while Schleibaum is absolutely an advocate of wearing them, he’s not too fond of using them as a marketing tactic, saying:

“Man, it really depresses me. I don’t want to make Darkest Hour masks. Something about making it fashionable and normal, I fucking hate. I wanna keep it weird. This is weird, this can’t be normal. It’s not going to be a fashion thing. I don’t want to believe that so I’m resisting it, but I’ve chosen to monetize off other shit so I don’t degrade bands that do [sell masks]. But I think it’s an interesting thing, man.”

Speaking about the band’s Patreon, Schleibaum explained the motivations behind launching it back in January, before the world ended:

“We are better off doing this structure than any label we’ve ever been on. And I really hate to say that because we’ve been on 11 difference record labels so we’re throwing people under the bus who’ve worked with us.

“But, this is amazing, and it all started with dirt bikes. A buddy of mine runs a vinyl pressing plant in Virginia, his name’s Eric Astor, he was in a bunch of bands back in the day but his vinyl pressing plant, Furnace Manufacturing, presses all of the Metallica records, all the Warner records. It’s one of the biggest vinyl pressing plants on the East Coast. And Eric’s dedicated to quality and he’s a really old friend; we had a sick Van Halen cover band together. 

“He says, ‘You guys need to start a Patreon.’ I say, ‘What’s that?’ He says, ‘My friend who does dirt bike racing goes on all these trails, video tapes himself with a GoPro on the trail, and then he puts the GoPro up so people who want to dirt bike can look at all the different trails and go, ‘Sick, that’s a great trail. I can train in my living room, I can plan, okay, there’s a big dip like 3 miles in.’ And I was like, ‘You’re fucking crazy… I’m not doing this.’ 

“Fucking everyday, you gotta message people back, got gotta hit ‘em up about the shit you shipped out, the shit you posted, you gotta interact. You can’t go on Instagram and then charge people on Patreon, you really have to get in the weeds and give them what they’re paying for because if you don’t, you just watch that unsubscribe thing going… and you go, ‘Fuck!’” 

On the financial lifeline the band’s Patreon has provided in lieu of touring income and the difficulties of keeping up with its demands:

“We’ve evolved from a band that existed before the internet to a band that crowdfunded our last album and licensed it to the label that put out our first record. We’re all over the place. When we launched a Patreon, even dudes in the band were a little bit like, ‘What the fuck?’ But we’ve always done [new] things… it was cool.

“And luckily, it’s been our safety net since we had to cancel and rebook a tour and we had to figure out how we were going to make our bills. We are a business so we have a lot of bills. We lost a lot of money on the tour we had planned [with Misery Signals] but we’re smart so we’re able to parlay a lot of that. We’re not complaining about that but we’ve had to spend a lot of energy.

“I’ve had to become a video editor, I’ve had to become really talented in figuring out how each one of the different social media that we’re on operates, because people on Twitter operate different than people on Instagram, different than people on Facebook. I do that all and still want to be an artist, because I want to spend my day playing guitar, with all this shit behind me. It’s a struggle, even now because now I’m forced to also produce a shitload of content and do all this other stuff.” 

“And we ship out physical items as well. We have a DIY webstore that we do, here at the [Riff] Dojo, which normally isn’t that hard ’cause I have help, but now I’m by myself. So we sell all the bands’ merchandise online through that and we do the Patreon where we send out exclusive 7 inches, doing a wall flag that’s really sick. The reality is that the monetization of this band really never — not never — but takes a really long time to make it to the actual artists, so these ways that we’ve created are the ways that we’ve survived, other than touring, and now when that’s taken away we’ve just doubled down.

“As an artist and a creative force, that’s been 100% of my focus. All the bands I was recording and producing, all that got cancelled or moved. I have two other bands I do outside of Darkest Hour. One has an album coming out on Equal Vision in August. We had to totally revamp our game plan. The other has an album coming on 3LG and its basically just shelved until we know what to do with it. Gotta roll with the punches.

On how the lack of live music has affected all of us:

“When you take live music out of a motherfucker’s life, it’s like taking the taste out of food. You’re gonna snap about some shit and not know, like, ‘Why am I so fucking pissed off?’ 

You can listen to the full episode below via either audio embed or YouTube.

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