Gregory Lomayesva is an artist and entrepreneur. He works in both contemporary and traditional Native American styles. When the economy tanked, so did art sales, but Lomayesva survived through his other venture, creating new versions of circuit boards for vintage audio equipment. Now, Drip Electronics (dripelectronics.com) has become a grassroots force in DIY electronics. Below, Lomayesva riffs off various topics and words (in bold) as provided by the interviewer in what can best be described as a mad lib interview.
I didn’t know anything about electronics before all this, but I’m completely obsessive compulsive and I learn whatever I need to do what I want. I wanted to record an album. I didn’t have the equipment and I couldn’t afford it, so I figured out how to make it. Some people are savants with certain things, and it turns out patterns and schematics are my thing. Circuit boards are like artwork—I can make a pattern and create a formula that works.
Vintage Les Paul or Gibson guitars might set you back $20,000, and amps and other special equipment can be just as valuable. New stuff like I’m designing is putting that same sound in the hands of artists, nobodies, me.
I love the recession. It destroyed countless artist friends of mine and I got my ass kicked too. At one point I was a month away from losing my house and I invested everything into one of my circuit board designs instead of paying my mortgage. Basically, I walked up to the roulette table and I put it all on red. I released the design and, $100 at a time, I got back on my feet.
Drip Electronics is a secret life that none of my art clients know about. People know that musicians have to record, but they don’t really understand the kind of equipment necessary or how inaccessible some of it is. Design is a critical part of the process and I design gear that kicks ass.
This year I took on the most wanted piece of machinery on the planet, the Fairchild 660, and I ended up being the first mofo in the world to do it in circuit board format. Instead of paying 14 grand or even 30 grand, a musician can put together my Fairchild design for about $2,000.
My art career was retardedly successful until the recession took out galleries and bankrupted clients. I realized that I had become complacent and I’ve emerged as a better painter because of it. But electronics design is like doing the most awesome and deadly 3-D crossword puzzle. I love it. I paint in the morning; I come home and crave designing. I used to be immobilized by OCD, but now I’m putting it to work. My shrink loves it.
Indian art is not something I publicize. Sometimes it feels limited. I was in a supposed show of “cutting edge Native American” art last year and my fetishes of people shooting heroin and having sex were censored. They say “cutting edge” but there’s a cap. In contemporary art, anything goes, but you get your ass kicked quick if you don’t hit it right.
Business is a formula too. When my art career first took off, I immediately hired like eight assistants to help me expand. It wasn’t the right thing and it taught me a lesson about overhead and about the way I want to do things. Drip is more about a community of musicians who dig using the gear. Don’t get me wrong, though, business is good—I’m buying a Porsche when the recession’s over.
Helping a brother out is what it’s all about. I’ve been able to work with several schools so that they can benefit from my designs instead of doing without because of the absurd prices high-end audio companies charge. When I started out, people in online forums were laughing at me because I was ambitious, because I was combining components that weren’t supposed to work together, for everything. But I just did it. I didn’t know Ohm’s law but I just had a knack. It’s like art, but it will shock the fuck out of you.