Darkest Hour Guitarist Mike Schliebaum's 2014 Summer Tour Survival Guide — Mayhem

In this new feature from the August 2014 issue of Guitar World, the guitarists of Avenged Sevenfold, Morbid Angel, Trivium and other metal acts tell how they'll beat the heat and tame the crowds on the season's biggest tours.

TODAY: Darkest Hour Guitarist Mike Schliebaum — Mayhem

Your sweatiest concert ever?

The hottest I remember it being onstage was at the 2004 Ozzfest in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I think it may have been 106 or 107 degrees. All I know was it felt like playing on the surface of the sun. We were new to outdoor touring at that time and totally unprepared. I remember after that show, all the white ink in my tattoos raised up because of the sunburn I got that day.

Tips for playing in extreme heat?

The first rule is to not get too drunk. That can lead to some real bad hydration situations when it’s hot out. What you should drink is water, and lots of it, not energy drinks or soda. It’s also important that you have your gear covered in conditions like this. Keep the guitars out of sunlight, and make sure you have nice airflow to your guitar heads and rack cases. One time while headlining the Thrash and Burn tour in 2008, I blew the tops off of two 6L6 tubes. We had Randall MTS heads at the time and were running the bias super hot. The amp cases got stuck in the corner of this ultra-hot club, and it pressure cooked the tops right off those tubes. Cracked the glass and everything.

One item you’ll carry with you at all times this summer?

The primary piece of gear to have on you at all times is a Sharpie. A marker is one of the most useful things at a concert like this, so I plan to have one on me at all times.

Considerations when playing an outdoor show versus an indoor show?

First of all, keep it simple. Playing live outdoors is a battle, and you don’t want to go out with a shit-ton of gear and complex hoo-ha! Make sure you organize and tape all those cables and streamline your use of patch cables—the more that needs to be connected, the more that can go wrong. You also have to manage your expectations, sound-wise. Unless you’re a big rocker and can bring your own P.A. or have your own in-ear system, you’ve got to prepare yourself for rocking outside. It can be a bummer not having the walls of a club to bounce sound off. When you get onstage, you have to keep it positive and just rock on. It’s not always gonna sound clear, but you’ve got to work with what the elements give you.

Lastly, make sure you can see your tuner and pedal lights, as glare from the sun can make LCD screens and pedal-board lights hard to see. And back up your wireless systems with a cable—you never know when you’re going to lose your signal or encounter some crazy interference.

Primary gear you’ll be playing this summer?

As far as amps, both of us in Darkest Hour use the EVH 5150 100-watt heads. We run those into the Fractal Axe-Fx Ultra for effects and fun stuff. For guitars, I’ll most probably be rocking my custom Jackson USA Soloist. The guys at Jackson made it for me a few years back, and this guitar is so responsive it brings the shred when it must be brought!

Tips for winning over a tough crowd?

The main thing to remember in front of any crowd is to stay positive. Don’t go negative on them, don’t berate them, and don’t expect them to even give a shit. You have to earn their respect and admiration, so act like it. The crowd is watching everything you do in a way that you can’t see, so keep that perspective in mind.

Highlight of your band’s set list?

Definitely our new songs. It’s been a while since we’ve had new material to play, and this new stuff slams so hard that we’re going to have to rock more than a few tunes. We’ve got a relatively short set, so we have to pack it with all the jams you want to hear and all the jams you need to hear.

Advice for a band just starting to play live?

Make sure you rehearse a lot and don’t be afraid to rehearse the whole set at half speed or at least slower than you do live. That way you can really concentrate on your playing. And don’t be afraid to videotape the show and talk about it later. Don’t get defensive—look at what’s working and work together with your bandmates to make it the best it can be. The point is not to make the show a contrived act but more to make sure you get the best idea of what the audience is seeing.

It’s you and your boys against the world, not you guys against each other, and that is one of the hardest things to keep in perspective out there on the stage or on the road.

Watch the video for "Wasteland" here:

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Jeff Kitts

As a teenager, Jeff Kitts began his career in the mid ’80s as editor of an underground heavy metal fanzine in the bedroom of his parents’ house. From there he went on to write for countless rock and metal magazines around the world – including Circus, Hit Parader, Metal Maniacs, Rock Power and others – and in 1992 began working as an assistant editor at Guitar World. During his 27 years at Guitar World, Jeff served in multiple editorial capacities, including managing editor and executive editor before finally departing as editorial director in 2018. Jeff has authored several books and continues to write for Guitar World and other publications and teaches English full time in New Jersey. His first (and still favorite) guitar was a black Ibanez RG550.