Beautifully Human / Blake Kunkel

As we continue our series today, Beautifully Human...

We focus on the beauty of humans and the power in their stories…

Through telling their stories we hope to connect this world. To spread strength, love, and humanity...

To show a common thread of beautiful humans…

This week we go to Las Vegas, Nevada with Blake Kunkel to hear his incredible story...

I met Blake early last year when I was on tour with Periphery and they were opening for Dance Gavin Dance and Blake and I were two of the five merch dudes for the tour.

We became very close over this tour. It is always a weird dynamic starting into new tours. Ego's, attitudes, amount of items you can have, space you can have in the small venues you are in. But you are always close in proximity with everyone on the tour even if you are not on the same bus.

I was early into my sobriety at this point also into my new diet. I shared my story here and there and Blake and I bonded on crazy shit happening in life. We shared countless hours of stories, laughs, and life that month.

Blake gives incredible hugs. I miss those hugs. Blake also has an incredibly infectious laugh. Impossible not to laugh when he is. Blake has a beautiful heart.

I am lucky to call Blake a dear friend of mine...

Let’s all be beautifully human…

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Blake Kunkel / Las Vegas, Nevada


Tell me a story that shaped your life…


- I know this is supposed to be a positive thing but I’ve been thinking about this a lot, and this story isn’t without its tragedy and darkness.  I’ve read most of the other stories of people you have posted and its beautiful to read redemption stories and finding light in the darkness…


This isn’t exactly that.  However this is definitely the thing that created the monster so to speak.  My life was a myriad of strange things and so much was going on in my life at the time.  I had just graduated high school, my girlfriend and I had just split, my parents were divorcing, I was without a job at the time and trying to just figure out what the hell I was going to do with my life and my future.  At the time I thought I was just bummed out, that this overwhelming sadness was just something I was going through and had been going through.  Looking back at it now I realize that what I was going through was part of my lifelong battle with depression.  I had felt this way since a young age but at this time in my young adult life it had hit me the worst.  The struggle I had always been dealing with is a sense of identity and finding where I belong in that.  Even in music something I loved with all of my heart I felt like a complete outsider. 

One night on my way to band practice I was on the highway, it was a somewhat gloomy Michigan day.  My brain had taken off and went into a spiraling autopilot of awful thoughts.  I had truly lost control of myself at this point.  Alone in my car with my thoughts attacking me, I closed my eyes, cross my arms and out loud said “god how much do you love me”.   At this point it seemed like in the middle of the chaos that I was feeling, the only way through it was out.  Obviously I’m typing this message today at 33 years old, 15 years later from that fall day. 

I woke up on the side of the road in a wrecked car and I was completely okay, and whatever was looking over me that day, I walked away from that.  I realized immediately how stupid what I did was, and I was angry at myself.  In my mind I came to this idea and conclusion that my attempting suicide was beyond selfish and cowardly.  At that point my mind wired itself in a way to tell me something that would end up defining everything for me from that point on. 

“Blake you are not a coward”. 

That became this cornerstone in which I attempted to build my life on.  I’ve put myself in some great situations because I had this sense of strength in me now. I’ve also been in some really bad situations because I’ve chosen to not walk away from a whatever due to a misguided sense of not backing down.  To this day I force myself to go through things, and I let this sense of pride tell me to suffer through it because “Blake you are not a coward”. There is balance in it, but it doesn’t come without its challenges.  That instance in my life changed something in my that shaped something that I would carry with my forever, wether that is good or bad… I’m not sure I’ll ever truly know.

Tell me a story that almost ruined your life… 


- That last story could be looked at this way as well.  I mean I almost took my own life… I lied to people about it for a long time. I said I fell asleep at the wheel, or I just lost control.  But the truth about it, is I gave up on myself.

Tell me a story of crazy life… 


- So cycling is a big deal to me.  I am an enthusiast of sorts.  I wouldn’t say I’m an avid cyclist or anything crazy like that, it’s just something I enjoy.   I find it peaceful and I love everything about it, from riding to stripping bikes down and rebuilding them or just upgrading small components here and there.  This is important for the last half of this.  Either way on to the story…. So this year (2020) has been insane..  One morning I woke up with what looked like pimples on my arm.  The next morning my entire arm was swollen and those pimples became lesions and I ended up eventually going to the hospital. 

They believe I was bitten by 1 possibly 2 spiders, they had no other explanation to what could be caused such fast and serious infection.  They hospital was seriously concerned and got me into be treated as fast as possible.  Had I been anymore stubborn than I already am and went a day later the best case scenario would’ve been losing that arm.  The worst.. well it wasn’t fun to hear that for me either.  So they put me on some antibiotics and it clears up. This is all happening as the covid-19 crisis is beginning to hit the states.  I leave for a tour that we are hoping will still happen, and of course that gets postponed on day one and all the work we put into it was torn away.  So I’m home and some time passes,  The weather in Nevada is beautiful at this time and I decide to just delve into riding my bike a bunch. Well one morning I woke up and got on my bike in the morning…

I woke up again around 5-6pm in the hospital when I was finally coming to.  I was on my phone FaceTiming with someone very important to me and realized I was in the hospital with a concussion and no clue what happened.  My face, hands, and knees were all cut up, my body pretty sore, and I was just hanging out being pain in the ass for the hospital staff.  They put a weight sensor on my bed to an alarm goes off if I got out of bed haha. I’m surprised they didn’t tie me down to be honest.  Once I finally was able to look at my bike the handlebars were a little bent and not the kind that happens from just falling over. 

I was hit by a car, that’s the only conclusion I could possibly come to. 

A hit and run. 

How crazy is all of that?



Tell me a story of hope…


- So to continue from the crazy life story…  I let 1 day pass, thats all.  I’m not going to sit at home and feel sorry for myself when the weather is nice and I could be riding my bicycle, something I love, something that brings me peace.  The day after I was out of the hospital I grabbed another bike I own, and made the decision to go from single speed with front brakes to committing to riding fixed gear.  This is something I had always wanted to do, but never committed to, maybe I just didn’t think I was cool enough to ride fixie. 

I started with some short 5-10 mile rides the first 2 days.  Within the week I was riding 30-40 miles daily and within a month I had rode about 1,000 miles.  I fell back in love with riding and it consumed me in the best way.  I came back from a pretty awful accident to not being afraid and hopping right back on the bike.  Might seem silly but I feel like I can just keep coming back from terrible stuff.  It gives me hope that I can keep going no matter how bad things get.

Tell me a story of life... 


- Instead I think I want to just say how cool Star Wars is. Like how fun is it that something so silly has become so important to people.  I even named Jyn after a Star Wars character.  I know it’s not for everyone and I accept that.  I just think it’s super cool.

What would you want the world to know about you… 


- 1: That I’m trying to grow and be better every day still.  Theres that cheesy adage “every sinner has a future, ever saint has a past”.  I think just being me I will always feel like I'm failing and constantly trying to grow due to that. 

But I hope people see that I’m not the person I was any of the yesterdays before the day in front of us.

2: That I don’t mean to be that grumpy Merch guy.  Back to article 1 I’m trying to be better.  I have my bad days, more than I care to admit, and sometimes things are just overwhelming, and not in a way of I’m getting flustered by the amount of work.  But just the amount of people who are just crappy to me and affect my mood negatively and in my own weakness I end up being grumpy grumpy for the night.  This is something I really need to work on.

What did / do you miss most during covid 19…


- Happiness. I feel like thats the thing I miss the most during this whole thing.  It’s like there’s moments of happiness, but not this true sense of happiness that people use to feel in their everyday lives.  The worlds we live in open and close and there are restrictions and it’s cost a lot of us a lot of things. I’m without my career right now, some of my outlets have been taken from me for periods of time, some possibilities were taken out of my hands and I feel as though I missed some chances for things I wanted due to this all.  It has torn me away from people I truly care about as well.  Life is a distraction sometimes but it’s a positive distraction.  A lot of us, myself included, are dealing with our personal traumas for real for the first time with nothing to distract us or ease us though those things. 

It’s more than trial by fire, it/s a straight punch in the face.  Not only that but with all of this craziness going on around us with the injustice in the world, there is just this blanket of grim darkness seeping over into every facet of life.  It’s as though every day is some sort of new fight and we are getting burnt out but know we need to keep trying to persevere.  There are moments, there are glimpses and there are teases of it all around us, but the thing I miss the most during this pandemic is genuine and honest happiness.  I hope people find this in their daily lives again soon.

What brings you the most joy / smile the most... 


- My pup Jyn. She is the light of my life for sure.  Her goofy smile, and her upbeat and fun personality is just the best.  I honestly feel like she saved my life.  She knows when I’m feeling anything and she is just the apple of my eye.  I am so abundantly lucky to experience life with her in it.  I honestly couldn’t imagine life without her.  She is truly my partner in life.


If you were given a plane ticket to anywhere, where would you go…


- That’s a tough question because following my heart or my head may lead my different places.  Anywhere I could find some sort of adventure sounds nice right now.  As long as I can bring my pup or my bicycle I think I’d be good with anywhere.

What brought you to where you are at in life today…


- Bad luck and circumstance haha.  I mean most of where I am today is by circumstance.  I played music and was noticed by my peers, my bad luck was that I never made a real name for myself musically, but I was given the chance to do merchandising by some of my touring friends, and that gave me a name within the music industry.  And music has opened so many doors for me, its brought me around the world, its given my life long friendships, and it given me the life I live today.

What is your most prized possession…


- Probably my bicycles.  They will come and go but I don’t know if I could go without owning at least one.


Traveling is my life, and has also saved my life. It shows the beauty of other cultures and humans. Tell me a story of your favorite travel moment… 


- Honestly I get it. I'm super heavily tattooed, and it’s as uncommon to others as it is common to myself and the world I’m associated with.  I was in Thailand and this was before I blacked out my arm even.  I was in a school helping out and just playing soccer with the students and giving my time to help out around there.  And all the kids were so curious about my tattoos and kept touching my arms.  Normally I hate this kind of attention, but the pure and curious generosity from these young people just made me laugh.  I remember them being so dang good as soccer and just school everyone.  The whole experience of being in Thailand and not being able to connect through language but through sports and art was amazing to me.  I actually brought a bunch of markers with me and would secretly separate from my group to write my name on walls that were littered with other graffiti.  What a fun experience that was.



Tell me a story of struggle… 


- A memoir about my life. HAHA. 


What is your greatest accomplishment… 


- Surviving in this crazy world.  I think maybe we all should feel pretty good about waking up everyday.



What is your biggest fear… 


- I have 2 that are pretty equal to me but related on the same note.  My biggest fear is not being able to be there for the people I love.  My friends, family.  For me to not be able to just be there for them and help them or protect them in some way.  It drives me nuts to think of some of the situations I’ve seen people go through and I think to myself “If there was only something I could’ve done”.  So one of my biggest fears is not being able to be there for the people I actually give a shit about.


On a similar not, Not being good enough for my pup.  Jyn is the most important part of my life right now and will continue to be.  As long as she is part of my life I just want to live up to being good enough to be her caretaker.

What is your biggest regret…

- Being so damn stubborn about everything all the time.



What do you do for work… and why… 


- I do merchandising for touring rock bands.  Honestly it just makes sense to me.  My father was a hard working man, his life mostly revolved around being busy and working, he owned and managed restaurants, he was a salesman for a while and he just crushed it.  I look up up to my fathers work ethic.   It’s insane to me.  It’s how he showed love, by working hard.  I am in a cool and unique position where I am able to make money for myself while making money for others.  I get to be the vessel for a revenue stream for an artist and in return they take good care of me and treat me as family.  I could talk about other artists for sure and I am grateful for the majority of them I have been associated with.  Dance Gavin Dance has treated me as family.  I owe a lot to those dudes, and I couldn’t sell enough merchandise for them to show how appreciative I am towards those dudes.  I honestly wouldn’t have the life I have today if I hadn’t taken the gig for them and had they not given me a chance and believed in me. 

I have grown abundantly with them and I can’t say thank you enough to those boys, and their whole team.  Being involved in the music scene and surrounded by creative individuals just makes sense to me.  I love art and design and to able to be so involved with merchandising is the best thing I could’ve ever lucked in to.  From being able to sell and be around music all day, to me having a vision and seeing my designs on t-shirts being worn by thousands and thousands of people across the world.  I can’t even put it into words.  I tend to lack this sense of belonging with most things in life… but music/entertainment, I belong there.


If you had the ear of every person in the world, what would your message be... 


-Celebrate small victories.  It’s not always about the winning and losing but the fight itself.  So if you’re able to have any triumph in your life.  Take a breath and revel in that for a moment.  Small victories are so important.


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