Josh Harmony is softspoken and shares kindness wherever he may roam. He’s a skateboarder, musician, artist, Dad, and a spiritual human who loves humanity. So we kicked it at his pad, rolled some tape and asked him some questions about skating with Toy Machine, growing up, playing in Freckles, and how can creatives help make the world a better place for all. – What Youth
What Youth: Where did you grow up?
Josh Harmony: I grew up bouncing around a lot. My parents were married in Santa Monica and started a life here. My dad was getting job transfers as a kid and so I didn’t move to Southern California until I was six. I was born in Cincinnati and then my parents moved back to California when I was six when my dad got a job transfer out here. We lived here from when I was six to almost fourteen. Then we moved to Chicago, Illinois where I lived there until I was about seventeen. Then my parents moved back to California and I sent all my skateboarding footage to Toy Machine Skateboards. I got a call from Ed Templeton and he liked it. I then graduated high school early to start touring with Toy Machine.
Do you remember one of the first art projects you worked on as a kid?
Everyone does art as a kid, but I didn’t get super passionate until actually seven or eight years ago. Skateboarding was the introduction to everything for me. My dad asked me what I wanted for Christmas one year so went to a new skate shop called Blast (Laughs). It’s not there anymore, it was in the Claremont area. So we drove out there, met the guy and I picked out a board. From there, my introduction to skate videos came with exposure to really good music and everything changed. The first major time I got really excited about art was when I was in Barcelona on a Toy Machine tour and we went to a Robert Frank show and there was also an Andy Warhol exhibit at the same time. Both of those were really eye-opening for me. I also had an art teacher in my senior year of high school that was one of the most amazing people I have ever known. She was so encouraging.
With the release of Programming Injection, what do you think about the metamorphosis of Toy Machine over the years?
Well, it’s an honor to be on that team and to be apart of its history. Ed is the mastermind behind all of it, great taste in music and it’s really art-based. Just kind of raw skating is the formula that Ed brings into the team. His ability to pick riders in its own weird world is the key to its success like Daniel Lutheran, CJ [Collins], and Collin [Provost]. It’s had some of the coolest skaters of all time. I know that Ed will point the company in a direction that is fruitful.
Any influences outside of skateboarding that help you get creatively juiced?
Anytime I go to a museum and I get really hyped up and I usually come home and have to paint. I go in natural cycles of being super-super-excited of having to create. I’ll go do something I have to do and then in my mind, I can’t stop thinking about it. During an inspiring period, I have an idea and I have to complete it. I usually get excited about painting or music when there is something that really looks fresh to me. Whether that be an album, a song or a single painting. Sometimes I’ll work on a single painting for a really long time. I also like other artists’ work like Margaret Kilgallen, I was always really inspired by her. Her lines are so nice, I have a book called The Sweet By and By that I look at to get stoked to paint.
Have you been working on any upcoming projects with Freckles?
We always have songs in rotation. Our buddy Mike has been filming a lot, but we should be getting together soon. Stay tuned for January.
How has faith helped shaped you?
Well, I believe in Jesus as my Savior and Lord. It’s crazy, I guess, when people don’t know or have an idea of what Christianity is, I feel there can be a lot of confusion. For me in my life, it’s really meant so much freedom. It’s hard in a short interview to explain that, but if I didn’t have it honestly I would probably have been gone a long time ago. Because life can be so depressing and hard sometimes. My faith in God and hope of the future anchors my heart and keeps me stable. It’s a crutch that I absolutely need. There’s hope beyond this, being united with family and friends that you have lost and stuff… it’s so comforting to know of God’s grace. For me it’s huge. It can be hard to talk about sometimes. In my day-to-day, I may be open about it depending on where other people are about it. I don’t want people to get the impression that I am trying to thump people on their head with my faith all the time. If I was a kid and someone forced me to be a skater I probably wouldn’t have been a skater. For me, my faith in Christ has given me so much freedom that I can’t not share about it if people ask me. You know the bible says, “Be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks you about the hope that is in you.” For me that hope is Christ. In our culture, it’s looked at as conformity, as weak, or even foolish. It’s so valuable because it’s actually so counter-culture; putting others first and putting God first is a way to have hope in the beyond than not just in this fallen vapor we’re all stuck in.
That’s rad you lead by example.
It hasn’t always been easy. A few years ago, I had a really low point in my faith where I was struggling and where I was reconciling the evil of this world with a good God. Thankfully God was gracious to me, led me out and met me in that place that has given this this peace that the past is understanding. I encourage those that are feeling depressed or alone to ask Jesus to help you.
What can creatives do to help make the world a better place?
Artists’ main things are the ability to convey a message whether that be from emotion, or something really direct like in your face. So I feel that it is my duty to share grace and love. Some artists like to portray the really dark things that put it in your face. For instance, Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” and the anxiety expressing those aspects of life that people feel. When they see it, it resonates with them and they relate to it. For us as artists, I feel that it is really important to just express yourself in the medium in front of you so that it translates something to the human experience that makes people excited and hopeful about life. Wrestling with the darker sides of life I think people like Elliot Smith or Nick Drake, both of whose those lives unfortunately ended early. Sometimes it is comforting to listen to their music and know that other people feel those things and wrestle in those places. Artists have such a special task in being true and how they express themselves in their chosen craft. Sometimes artists are relating to themselves and their processing. Writing a song not only heals the artist but other people can find that access to that song and find healing or relatability there as well. It’s just valuable when your struggling.
For us as artists, I feel that it is really important to just express yourself in the medium in front of you so that it translates something to the human experience that makes people excited and hopeful about life.
Any new projects?
Music is not the best way to make money. But I feel like I am supposed to play music and get better at that. My kids are getting old so fast they are my biggest focus. I feel like the downtime from that is for art. I want to see my boys come into their own and really foster their talents. See them grow up and become good people.
One lesson you would like to pass on?
Don’t let the boxes or preconceived notions of what things are blind you from what good, beauty and helpful things can be underneath. I am so thankful for the hope that is there. Especially with Christ, it’s accessible and I would encourage people to not be closed off.
For more of Josh’s art click here