The Obelisk Questionnaire: Joey Toscano of Iota

Joey Toscano of Iota

The Obelisk Questionnaire is a series of open questions intended to give the answerer an opportunity to explore these ideas and stories from their life as deeply as they choose. Answers can be short or long, and that reveals something in itself, but the most important factor is honesty.

Based on the Proust Questionnaire, the goal over time is to show a diverse range of perspectives as those who take part bring their own points of view to answering the same questions. To see all The Obelisk Questionnaire posts, click here.

Thank you for reading and thanks to all who participate.

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Joey Toscano of Iota

How do you define what you do and how did you come to do it?

In order of priority, I live a life and then I write songs about it. Art comes out of living, so I don’t put music above everything else, or try to live by some fixed identity like, “I’m a musician”. I observe my own living and mindstream within this absurd world — experiencing the suffering and the joy just like everyone else — doing my best to fully experience, equally, the mundane and the extraordinary, though I don’t claim to be exceptionally good at that part. And then out of that, at the very bottom of the funnel, there just happens to be a preference for communicating and sharing it via music/sound. It’s all play and pretend.

I’ve come to it in different ways between 10yo, 20yo, and so on. Very recently, I’ve come to do what I’m doing now because a friend asked me to play the leads on a record he wrote. I wasn’t very active at that point, but found motivation in wanting to help a friend realize his musical vision. That in turn lead me to being inspired to finish an album that’d been sitting on the shelf for a few years. Then that lead to inspiration for writing another album. Interconnectivity and an infinite web of new starting

Describe your first musical memory.

Probably about 5 years old, I’d pretend our vacuum cleaner was a microphone—singing along to mom’s Journey and Michael Jackson records. I’d also spend hours just flipping through the records, soaking in the cover art. Lots of CCR, Beatles, Elton John, Neil Young. That’s what I remember being in her collection.

Describe your best musical memory to date.

I’ll go with the first record I ever connected with on a level that had me obsessed with listening to it all day, every day. That moment when you’re a kid and you get your first Walkman. Just completely absorbed in the music and your own emotional world. Pissing off your parents because you can’t hear anything they’re saying. That seems to be where everything has sprung from.

When was a time when a firmly held belief was tested?

Great question. I’d say it’s usually when I put my head on the pillow at night. Not every night, but that’s the typical scenario. It’s when the realization hits hardest that something I was clinging to or arguing about so intensely doesn’t really matter at all. All the plans I was making, all the mundane things I thought I wanted to align myself with. All of it just vapor. I used to firmly believe that life is just a straight line, but over the last 10 years or so, I’ve experienced some things that have shaken that belief and I realize now that it’s something much different than that. I have faith that most of our beliefs are bullshit.

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

Well, if done with the right intention, I think perhaps enlightenment? Or at least towards a clearer, more positive understanding of one’s perceived self and their place in the world. An understanding of how your chosen craft can be of benefit to others is critical. I like that Japanese term, Shokunin. Such a great concept for artist progression. Whether you’re a mechanic, electrician, chef, writer, accountant or musician. You have a responsibility to master your craft. And in turn, you benefit someone else with that mastery. I could be misinterpreting it, but that’s how I understand it. If you put the mastery of your craft into that perspective, then the ego will eventually dissipate.

How do you define success?

A relative state of being where one has stabilized in genuine peace of mind and happiness, regardless of their situation.

What is something you have seen that you wish you hadn’t?

Seeing my dog get run over.

Describe something you haven’t created yet that you’d like to create.

I fantasize about doing movie soundtracks, though everyone I know who’s done it tells me it’s usually an excruciating process.

What do you believe is the most essential function of art?

Essential function is to teach us about ourselves. That doesn’t make the artist the teacher, though. How we perceive art says more about us than it does the creator. If something disgusts us, we should ask ourselves why. Same goes for when something elates us. This is why the same piece of art can have so many different meanings.

Something non-musical that you’re looking forward to?

It will sound really boring but I look forward to doing absolutely nothing and being completely content about it

Iota, Pentasomnia (2024)

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