words: Kevin Barnett
photos: John Bradford
Josh Harmony scares the hell out of me. Two years of filming with Josh and Toy Machine have taught me to stay clear when Harm fixes an icy gaze on the terrain at hand. I’ve witnessed him mow down fully grown men at demos and tailslide hubbas with children strewn across them, never once looking distracted, coolly maintaining the intense focus that makes his most daring feats possible.
Considering the merciless rage he reserves for skateboarding, I’d hate to get on his bad side. If skate spots had eyes, he’d gouge them out. If they had ears, he’d tear them off. If they had spines, he’d break them.
Our footage is usually gathered between nervous breaths and hushed prayers. It’s all or nothing for Josh, no in-between. Once a new take on a trick pops into his head, it’s only a matter of seconds before he’s thundering away victorious or crumpled on the hot pavement lamenting his life.
Josh is no middle-of-the-road guy, slaming right into the face of life, come what may. He is a man of conviction and without mystery: he says what he means and means what he says. And whether in the skateboard arena or in friendship, his loyalty never wanes.
Hardly Reckless Abandon
As a very young suburban boy enjoying the fruits of summer, Josh would often jump headfirst into a glistening pool, eager to cool off—despite the fact he didn’t have the foggiest idea how to swim.
“I’d just leap right in,” he says. “And my dad would have to come get me every time. I just wanted to be in the pool.”
This level of assuredness could be mistaken for recklessness but Josh insists, “I’m not careless; I just make up my mind about something and do it until it’s done.”
In another stark example of unflinching commitment, Josh, at the barely ripe age of 20, recently married his longtime girl, Jenna.
Josh possesses lucid vision and never hesitates—and not just with aquatics and marriage. They are major tenets of Josh’s ability on the board. There’s no getting into it and jumping away, or kicking out just to get the feel. Josh doesn’t try things; he does them. But this seemingly ideal concoction of focus and confidence often has its share of consequences.
“I have to put all my heart into skating and sometimes it can break me, but it can lift me up that much higher when I just go for it. You reap what you sow.”
Strumming Through Life
In yet another extension of his earnestness, Josh has become an extremely talented guitar player. He became infatuated with the rock guitar of Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain, and fell in love with the limitless possibilities music offered. Similarities between his ax and the shred sled were not lost on Harm.
“With both music and skating,” he says, “there are no boundaries; you can go wherever you want. Anything you can think of you can just start doing.”
Currently, Josh draws inspiration from the experimental finger picking of guitar legend John Fahey, and watching Harmony play can be truly inspiring. The back of the tour van often becomes a makeshift auditorium as Josh picks away endlessly, hypnotizing his teammates waiting to be shuffled into hotel rooms. Josh sees both of his related loves as essential facets of his life.
“There are days I wake up and I want to skate so badly. Then there are times when all I really want to do is figure out a song,” he says. “I’ll stay inside all day and be a hermit. When I get burnt on either skating or the guitar, the other is right there to help me escape. It keeps me sane.”
The Ties that Bind
While Josh is the lone musical Harmony, skateboarding is present on many branches of his family tree. The eldest of the Harmony boys, Nathan, planted the seed. He kept a hardly used skate in the garage, hung above cobwebbed bikes and smooth, faded basketballs. It was this antique board that ignited Josh’s spark for skating, which would eventually become the blaze we see today.
Following in Josh’s steps, Zachary, the youngest Harmony, picked up a stick as well. On most sessions during the summers and weekends, Zach accompanies his older brother and wields the same controlled explosion of style, although in a lankier frame.
Skateboarding aside, the Harmony family ties are securely knotted. During stateside skate tours, Josh is often up early. Secluded in an empty corner of a motel parking lot, he’ll talk about the trials and tribulations of life on the road over the phone with his dad, Robert. European trips often test Josh’s patience as he scours tobacco stores and convenience marts for cheap phone cards to keep tabs with the Harmonys an ocean away, most notably Jenna, who periodically leaves messages about recent vehicle breakdowns or the fact that their cat is in heat.
Josh’s family is an integral part of who he is. They’re proud of Josh and, even better, Josh is proud of them.
Nostalgia and The Summer of Love
Josh appreciates times past. He listens to all sorts of old music, wears used clothes and even collects vintage National Geographic magazines. But his love of the past is perhaps most glaring in the acquisition of a 1968 Volkswagen Bus, dubbed “The Tangerine Dream.” The Dream showed up one morning after Josh made an off-handed reference about VW busses the week prior. In just a few days, he had it renovated inside and out. It will putter up to the meeting spot and let loose its cargo of shaggy haired Harmonys, a scene straight from the Summer of Love.
“It’s a lag wagon,” Josh says. “It doesn’t really go that fast, so it just slows everything down. Jenna and I will go out to dinner and take all night. I like the pace it makes me keep, and driving an old stick is somehow relaxing.”
To balance out the dawdling side of life, Josh’s interest has recently been diverted to motorcycles. His affection was piqued when friend and teammate, Austin Stephens, recently returned from a cross-country pilgrimage on a bike. Enticing Josh with yarns of epic sunsets and antique living, Josh promptly enlisted Jimmy from Ruca to instruct him in the ways of the steel horse. Perhaps life in the fast lane is yet to come.
A True Professional
Professional life, according to Josh, is just a change of title. The peaks and valleys he experiences in skateboarding have stayed the same.
“Some days you’re ripping and some days you suck,” Harm muses. “But on the days you suck, you look down at a board with your name on it.” He puts those off days in perspective by adding, “I think bad skate days are all in your mind. I can have a great time just riding around, not even popping the tail once. It’s all how you look at it.”
The inkling of sponsorship first appeared at RQ Boardshop out of Naperville, Illinois, Josh’s former home. He credits the shop with supplying him with boards as a youth and keeping him up to date on all the latest within the skate world. It was only after moving to the Inland Empire of Southern California that he set his sights on the big time.
“Something inside told me to try and skate for Toy Machine.” Josh was a longtime Toy fan, finding his favorite pros within its past and present ranks. On Josh’s last tour, his first as a pro, he was taken out for the first half by a badly bruised heel. As the rest of the team skated spot after spot, brimming with radness, Josh stayed dutifully on the sidelines, deflecting his disappointment with cheers and advice for his teammates. When at last he could skate again, it became clear that Josh had used the recuperation time to shed his amateur skin, unveiling his new professional hull. He laid demo after demo to waste and stayed late to chat with fans and autograph seekers, tirelessly matching them in games of SKATE before heading off to film at the nearest street spot. Alongside names like Jamie Thomas, Ed Templeton, Brian Anderson, Kerry Getz, Bam and Mike Maldonado, Josh’s name now rests firmly on a new edge of the Toy Machine pro legacy. It’s exciting to bare witness to this new era, an era sure to be remembered for the Harmony that came with it.