I've been friendly with Steve Meketa since around 1998 or so, but we sort of lost touch back in the mid-2000s. In the years since, we'd exchange a few brief, sporadic emails now and then; or I'd hear word through mutual friends that Steve had endured some heavy health issues. However, until recently, I had no idea of the true magnitude of his experiences.
Like so many people these days, Steve and I recently reconnected through Facebook, and it turns out that he had quite an amazing story to share. So, this interview is really about his "post-music" journey, picking up after Apartment 213 and Lockweld had largely drawn to a close...
Alright, so in 2009, I think Lockweld had been inactive for a while, and you were releasing a few solo noise efforts as simply S.L. Makita. The first release was titled Sigmoid Removal With Warm Machine, and I believe it was your sigmoid colon that you had removed? I'm not clear on the timeline of when everything transpired...
I had my first surgery in July of 2006. It was the worst experience of my life. Tubes and hoses, vomiting bile... truly an uncool scene. I had my colon removed, and then I had more procedures done as well on later dates. I was always having stomach issues, but I chalked it up to bad eating habits. My health issues, as my doctors have explained to me... basically, as best as my doctors could tell, my sigmoid colon burst sometime in my mid-20s, and somehow I didn't know about it and went on with my day-to-day routine. So, over time it healed up; however, the bad blood damaged my other organs.
2006, that's even farther back than I thought. When had you started seeing doctors?
I started seeing doctors earlier than that, but I was misdiagnosed a lot. I was told I had IBS [Irritable Bowel Syndrome] and nonsense like that. My brother suggested that I see a real doctor. I was not the biggest fan of doctors back then, so I dragged my feet on going to see them.
You were near death at one point, right? When was the situation at its worst?
Yeah, man, it was pretty brutal. The whole thing seems like a nightmare. I would say going from 260+ pounds to 120 pounds and having a heart attack was rough. The whole thing was straight rough. I wish my issues on nobody.
I didn't realize you had suffered a heart attack, too!? That's terrifying!
I actually had two heart attacks—one early on and another later. I had a mini-stroke during my first year in SoCal. This happened before I got heavily into skogging. God, my wife, and skogging saved my life. The heart attack was extremely scary. It is so weird, it is like you are aware of what is going on, but you are powerless and can't do anything about it.
What kind of recovery time were you dealing with, and what was the recuperation process like?
I still battle pain, fatigue, and other stuff daily. So, my recovery is ongoing [laughs]. I feel better now than I ever have, but I still get flare-ups and random issues. I will spare you the details. The grindcore kids reading this probably just got bummed out [laughs].
There have been a great deal of significant changes in your life since the surgery. I'm not sure of the chronology, so I may be asking questions out of order, but let's begin with the most obviously related factor: your diet. You're now a vegan.
My diet was a huge change. It has been many years and it is still tricky. I am a 100% strict vegan due to the sole fact that my body cannot break down or use animal fats or blood/plasma. That is the only reason I am vegan. I do not endorse animal rights institutes or any of that stuff. I would never harm a living creature, but I am not an animal rights activist. I say help humanity before animals. We should get men, women, and children fed and off the streets first, then save the whales.
How was the transition, and how would you describe the physical impact that you've experienced by switching to a vegan diet?
I feel 100 times better eating a vegan diet. It is night and day. I look better, I have been told. I have better endurance now—better than in my 20s. Becoming vegan was rough, though. My diet consisted of large amounts of fast food, and to shut that off and be forced to cook healthy almost seemed impossible. But if I could say this to the readers: stop eating fast food right now! That stuff is death for a buck.
You also relocated from Cleveland to San Diego. What brought that on? What made San Diego the final destination?
Truth be told, I felt led to come out here. My health was crap, I was recently divorced, and my job was fading away. Due to my diminished strength, I could not do my daily duties, so I was treated like a handicapped person and my pay scale was, um... different. So, yeah, it seemed to me that Southern California was the right place to be. I have always wanted to live in California. I figured, "If I'm going to croak, I guess I'll croak in the sun." I friggin' hate snow [laughs].
Another big change that you wanted to discuss is your faith. You're now a proud and self-proclaimed "Jesus freak" (your words). Give us the who, what, where, when, why, and how of that story...
Yes, sir. After all that I had been through, I started reading the Bible around late-2007. At first, I was lost (meaning my understanding of the Bible), so I put it down and thought that it was a waste of time. After talking to friends and family, they encouraged me to pray prior to reading the Bible. So, I tried again, and I will tell you I noticed changes—mainly in my behavior. In all honesty, I was not a nice person back in my Apartment 213/Lockweld days. I was a straight racist, homophobic, and evil guy. I hated 80% of the world's population, and was proud to tell you about it. I was not a Nazi, because I didn't like Germans either. I was just full of hate. All those feelings of hate and anger went away. I was changing from the inside out. I started attending church and reading more and more. God revealed so much to me.
Do you think you're being hard on yourself at all in retrospect? Granted we never hung out in person, but you always struck me as a nice guy back then, and I never heard you say (nor heard stories of you saying) anything that struck me as potentially offensive. Beyond anger and aggression in the music, I never would have guessed that there was that side to you.
[Laughs] no, I don't think I was one bit tough on myself with my self-description. I would say I had many personalities, my friend. With people like you and close friends, I was loyal to a fault; but if you weren't what I deemed "cool," then you were a target.
You mentioned that this was really the decision that turned things around for you.
After I gave my life over to God, I noticed my life changing, as I stated before. But once I was all in, as I like to call it—meaning I gave up all my old ways—things started to turn around for me. I truly moved to SoCal to either check out or just try and kinda make it. I have a whole new life out here now, and I know why. If I would have done this on my own, it would have more than likely messed things up again. My life now is pretty amazing. I am remarried to the most amazing woman ever. We have a beautiful little daughter, and she was born well after I was told by doctors that I could not have children due to my surgeries. And I am a professional skogger. Praise God.
You also shared that you've taken some criticism over this. Why do you think people get a stick up their asses about it? You're obviously not judging any of your old friends for not being religious...
Yeah, man. And I get it. Before I was a Christian, I used to think the stuff was nonsense. So, I do know where people are coming from. That being said, this doesn't stop me from praying for them. I pray they don't have to slip as much as I did.
I'm asking this from the standpoint of my own ignorant curiosity, but has your religion had any impact on how you view your past work with a band like Apartment 213, for example—where the bulk of the material was about serial killers and excessive violence?
To a point, I would say yes, but in ways that are probably not as obvious unless you hung out with me. I mean, as a 213 fan, you probably thought, "Wow, these cats really like serial killers," which is not the case. However, I did find death, murder, etc. funny. I used to make fun of people's parents, children, whoever that may have passed; and I truly despise that part of me and I am so glad it is gone. I mean, man, I was gone. Just not a cool dude. So, that band brought a lot of junk out of me that I am not proud of, but it was a huge part of my life and I will never deny it, nor my past behavior.
Okay, so before we delve into your current passion for skogging, you got into skateboarding when you were a kid. How would you describe your original experience with skating back in the day?
Good question, my friend. If it were not for skateboarding, I would have probably grown up more of a nerd than I did. Before skating, all I did was play with G.I. Joes and listen to bad rock 'n' roll—not even good rock 'n' roll [laughs]. I started skating around age 8. I mean seriously skating, that is. After I discovered that counterculture, my life was never the same. I was never into drugs, and to this day I have never smoked pot or tried any drugs. I just loved skating. After I discovered punk music and hardcore... again, my life would never be the same.
You had gotten back into traditional skateboarding as a form of exercise after your surgery, is that right?
After I went vegan, my doctors were red-faced telling me to exercise daily. They offered up, "Ride a bike around town." I was never really into bikes, so I asked if I could skateboard. My lead doctor said, "Yes, sure, but wear a helmet." So, I jumped back in, but tricks were definitely off the table. I wasn't in shape for that style of riding, so I just started pushing around town on a street board.
Out in San Diego, you met your mentor, Chris Yandall—a legendary skater dating back to the early-'70s—who coined the term "skogging" back around 2004, which represents a fusion of skateboarding and jogging. How did you meet Chris, and what drew you to the concept of skogging?
This was one of the most life-changing moments in my life, next to the birth of my daughter. And it all plays off of my moving to SoCal just to survive. On my flight out to California, I prayed that I could start skating daily (because in SoCal you can, and year-round ) and that I could find a style I could help grow and leave my thumb- and/or footprint on... here we are today.
So, I bought a longboard. I pushed that beast for over 100 miles, just pushing regular-footed. A local skate shop owner—Pat Brickner, from The Grind Skate Shop in Oceanside, CA—put me in touch with Chris and we hit it off. I took to skogging for what it was: a blessing from God. Skogging was exactly the style I was searching for: long distance skateboarding. Skogging is pushing with both legs while alternating the lead leg. For example: push regular, then mongo, then switch foot; then push goofy, then push mongo. Confused? YouTube it or email me. We will get you straight skogging in no time.
Sadly, Chris Yandall passed away in 2014, but it seems like you're really doing all that you can to honor his memory and carry on his legacy. Talk about how skogging has grown over the last few years, and where you hope to take it moving forward.
Thank you! I am doing my best to honor him, we all are. Chris passed away on Easter in 2014. I was devastated when I found out. I think about him every day, and about how much he impacted my life. He called me his protégé, and that is not a title that I take lightly. It is the fuel to my fire! I see skogging growing every day. We're doing trainings and holding classes—spreading the stoke that our mentor, Chris, started.
Did you pioneer the "high kick" skogging style for which you're known? Did that approach just come naturally to you?
I wouldn't say I pioneered the high kick. During one skog session, Mr. Chris Yandall and I were out and he told me, "Dang, dude, you are a high-kicking whiteboy." He referred to me as "Steven 'High Kick' Meketa," so it stuck, I would say. It is my push style, for sure.
There are videos online of you skogging barefoot—tearing your feet up and everything.
[Laughs] well, mom... (I'm kidding). Yeah, I love to ride barefoot. It is fun and freeing, I guess you could say. I have ripped my feet up pretty bad on many occasions, and some are documented. If I was not completely horrible at camera work and technology, there would be way more footage [laughs].
What does it mean to be a professional skogger? What's an average day in the life?
Basically, being a pro skogger means I have been recognized by my peers. I am also sponsored by many high-end companies, such as Whatever Skateboards. They allowed me to design a skogging board. And the best wheel and truck company ever, Seismic Skate. Also, heavily into the safety aspects of skating, Ekick Tech and IR Apparel. Also peep out SockGuy, Vox Footwear, Khiro Skateboard Products, and CroozerBoards. I am also the Director of the Vista Skatepark Coalition.
An average day would be my skogging commute to work, which is 12 miles one way. Weekends I try to get out and skog as much as possible. We do monthly skogging/long distance push (LDP) events to get people healthy.
We haven't really talked about music much. What are you listening to these days?
I listen to praise and worship music the most, but I still listen to noise—mainly Nurse With Wound. I jam on Youth of Today a lot. Integrity, etc.
Do you ever get the itch to create your own music again—noise or otherwise?
It's weird, man... not really. I do, but the feeling fades moments after. I am very content with just skogging and being a family man these days. Who knows, that could all change down the road, but it's probably unlikely. Three people are affected by this [laughs].
Truth is, though, I was supposed to be in The Haters when I moved out here, but I haven't even met up with GX [Jupitter-Larsen] once since my move. And that is on me. After doing this interview, I am going to make it up to Los Angeles to hang with him. We chat via Facebook, but that's it.
As far as the powerviolence thing is concerned, I chatted with the OG members of Apartment 213 and we might do something, but the lyrics will definitely be taking a different path. But, again, this is all up in the air and a "Who knows?" type of deal.
You've had such a crazy journey, man. It's great to see you happy and healthy and living the family life. I really appreciate you taking the time to share your story.
I hope I don't come off holier-than-thou, 'cause I am not. I take two steps forward and about 90 steps back, but I try daily to better myself.
And thank you, Andrew, for asking me to do this.