Last Gasp Guitarist Dave Kuhlman on Growing Up in the Hardcore Scene

Photo: Josh Brown

Dave Kuhlman has been part of the hardcore community for many years now, including playing guitar in the Michigan band Tiger. Since then, he's persisted throughout the years and always kept up support for DIY artists and shows.

These days, he's a member of Cleveland, Ohio hardcore unit Last Gasp, who released their sophmore album, Who Wants to Die Tonight?, on the WAR Records label late last year. Dave continues to play shows throughout the country and also cuts hair at Black Cat Barbershop in Cleveland.

I reached out to my old friend and bandmate (I played bass in Tiger) for this following No Echo Q&A piece.

Thank you, Dave, for taking the time out of your day. What can you tell me about your first run of shows in a positive hardcore band—back before everyone had iPhones 20 years ago?

First off, it’s fucking insane to think that I’ve been a part of this for 20+ years. As far as the first run of shows with my first band, I can tell you one thing, they were all DIY hall shows.

I never thought about it until now, but in the 5 to 6 years that we were a band, I can probably count on one hand, the amount of times that we played on a legitimate stage with monitors and a sound guy.

Dave performing with Tiger back in the early '00s.

What have you noticed about going to hardcore shows in 2023 compared to the early 2000s?

As someone who’s too old to mosh nowadays, and just kind of observes, I have noticed that the mosh at shows has gotten a lot crazier. But at the same time it’s not as scary as it used to be, if that makes sense? I’ve legitimately watched dudes get jumped 10 on one because some guy was moshing hard and hit the wrong guy. I would attribute that to the fact that every single person has a phone and is so quick and eager to put everything that they see online.

People know they can’t get away with as much these days. I have also noticed that the styles of the late '90s and early '00s have somehow circled back around to now like it’s not odd to see a dude wearing jncos and a silver ball chain necklace at a show which is crazy but awesome at the same time.

With the fads of white belts and dolled-up hair disappearing, is there anything you miss?

I can tell you one thing, I don’t miss is my sideburns, who let me do that? [Laughs] I guess I miss the days when every show wasn’t posted online. I’m not throwing shade at the people that run the YouTube pages that document all the shows, I think it’s fucking awesome. The only thing that eased my pain of missing the Dying Fetus set at FYA was knowing that I would be able to watch it on YouTube a few days later.

But I do miss the days of seeing a flyer for a show that was states away from where I lived and knowing this is gonna be something special and if I don’t go to this, I’m gonna miss out and I’m gonna have to hear people talk about it for months or years to come and I’m gonna kick myself every single time I hear about it because I didn’t fucking go.

That’s part of the reason why me and my friends would sometimes drive 10 to 15 hours from where we lived for one show just to turn around and drive straight back home because we all had to work Monday morning. I also missed the days when every band wasn’t trying to sound like fucking BIB.

Last Gasp (Photo courtesy of WAR Records)

What has been one of your favorite moments you’ve seen or heard over the years?

Hands down, it’s got to be the first show after quarantine. I don’t know if anything will ever match that energy from that night. As far as favorite things I’ve heard… I’d say recently It’s been Balmora, everybody go listen to Balmora.

READ MORE: Balmora: Connecticut Group Summons ‘90s Metalcore Spirit on Superb Debut Release

The things that inspire you: have they changed over the years or is there always a constant?

Absolutely they’ve changed. I'm not nearly as angry as I used to be back in my 20s. Hardcore used to be an outlet that I needed to keep me from flying off the handle on a dickhead boss or walking out of some shitty job that I hated that was barely paying my bills. I don’t have those problems anymore.

Growing up and becoming a responsible adult is actually pretty fucking cool. As far as writing music, my inspiration has always, and will always come from the skate punk bands that I listen to in middle school and high school to the hardcore bands that struck a nerve with me in my early days of getting into it bands like Terror, Marauder, Hatebreed, Ringworm, etc.

2005 flyer for Dave's old band, Tiger.

What do you do for fun other than shred guitar these days? Do you hunt wild game?

Man, I’m a total homebody these days. The days of going out on the weekends and staying out late are over for me. My free time is spent playing a lot of video games, or watching home renovation shows with my wife while enjoying a home-cooked meal. My views on hunting can be summed up by the song "New Ethic" by Earth Crisis.

How did you end up relocating from Michigan to Ohio? Do you think you are staying in the Midwest?

I tried college twice and dropped out twice because I hated it. When I hit my mid-20s, I realized that the only jobs that I would be able to get in the small town that I lived in with my level of education were shitty $8/hr retail jobs. At that time, my sister had bought a house in the Cleveland area. She offered to rent a room to me. Basically, I had an opportunity to get the fuck out so I did.

Fast forward to now and I’m married and we own a house. I've established in my career. I think I’m here to stay. I love the East Coast but there’s no way I would ever pay that much to live somewhere. The West Coast is cool just not for me. The Midwest is the only thing that really makes sense to me.

What are you listening to that isn’t what someone would expect from you? 

The album Unicorn by the band Gunship. Go listen to it and try and tell me it doesn’t kick ass.

What’s next for Last Gasp in 2024?

I don’t actually know. We’re taking a couple months break right now because I’m recovering from shoulder surgery. I know we have a couple shows this spring. We’re trying to set up some runs and tours here and there.

Unfortunately, we’re all adults with real jobs so we can’t really take off a month to do a full US tour but we’re always down to do weekend runs or like a five or six-day run here and there. Obviously, we’d love to play one of the bigger fest as I’m sure every band would.

But I don’t know man, Last Gasp is down to play anywhere anytime. You want us in your city, hit us up.

Finally, what is the best pizza in your city?

That’s a tough question, man. The food scene in Cleveland is crazy. For thin crust I’m gonna say Cents. If you like a deeper pan style, Ohio Pie.


Last Gasp's latest album, Who Wants to Die Tonight?, is out now via WAR Records.


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