RAC alum and current instructor Francisco, aka Zisco, makes overcoming monumental challenges look like a breeze. In four short years, he left his home country, mastered a new language, enhanced his audio skills, and made great strides towards accomplishing his career goals – always with a positive attitude in tow.
If I wasn’t an audio engineer I’d be… an architect. I used to draw a lot and grew up playing with Legos, so I guess designing and creating things from scratch were always part of my passions (just like composing a song from scratch is!)
Name a song that is on repeat on your playlist: Danny Ocean – “Brisa”
Favourite live show?
I have three favourite live shows:
- Ricardo Arjona – Circo Soledad tour
- Romeo Santos – Viña del mar concert
- Luis Miguel – Live show Teatro de Bellas Artes
Morning person or night owl? Definitely a night owl
Favourite song at the moment? Ricardo Arjona – “Mujer de Guanahaní”
RAC: Tell us a little bit about where you come from and your background in audio.
Zisco: I was born in Venezuela. In 2018, I decided that I had to leave my country (which meant learning English from scratch) and find a way to keep improving on my audio and music skills so that I could accomplish my biggest professional goal: be one of the most recognized Latin producers in the world.
Although I studied audio engineering and music production in Venezuela for 3 years, I found that studying and working at RAC helped me polish a lot of those (and I’m still improving!).
RAC: When did you first realize that music/sound production was something that you wanted to pursue?
Zisco: Since I was young, starting at around 9 years old, I haven’t been able to stop drumming on tables or any surface with either my hands or feet, always following along to any kind of rhythm. I guess that’s something that everybody does, however my family took notice of my little obsession, and they decided to give me a drum kit and a basic percussion set for Christmas one year. Although I absolutely fell in love with them, it wasn’t enough to fully satisfy my curiosity and love of music.
I soon found myself analyzing the instruments and lyrics of the songs I listened to, and I started to sing random melodies, which I also loved doing all the time. Sadly, I didn’t have the ability to record or save those ideas, but that fortunately led me to my discovery of the world of audio engineering.
RAC: Can you talk a bit about the differences between the Canadian audio engineering world and what you experienced in Venezuela? What made you decide to make such a big move?
Zisco: Back in 2017, I did some gigs as a live sound engineer at theatres in Caracas, Venezuela. I also worked part-time as a console operator for a radio station in the capital city. Those jobs gave me a lot of experience, not only as an engineer, but also on a professional level, since I had to learn to work with the other employees.
Nevertheless, because of Venezuela’s economic crisis, imagining a future there for me was near impossible, so I made the brave decision to get on an airplane and move to Canada. After completing my education at RAC in Montreal, I started to network with local artists who were looking for a mixing/mastering engineer or a producer. The language barrier was an issue for me in the beginning, but music is a universal language that everybody speaks, no matter where they are or where they come from.
After that, I started gaining more and more recognition through my music – people started to notice and appreciate my particular style that features an added Latin flavour. At the beginning of 2022 I got a job opportunity to be lead live sound engineer for a venue in Montreal’s Old Port named Lola Lola Lolita. So now I get to work with live sound again!
RAC: You have a wide variety of experience in the industry, from working as a live sound engineer, to a radio operator, to a mixing engineer, and even an audio teaching assistant and instructor! Is there one career path that you were drawn to more than the others? Why is that?
Zisco: Honestly, I never expected to have as much fun teaching audio engineering and music production as I do at RAC. But my life’s goal is to be a full-time producer during the week and a live sound engineer on the weekends. Being surrounded by music and people who love it as much as I do makes me feel more than complete. There’s still so much for me to learn and there’s no limit to what skills you could improve on in this field; that makes me feel motivated to keep working inside a studio environment or out running the console for a live show.
RAC: What advice would you give to students or recent grads? What are some of the things you’ve learned through your own journey?
Zisco: DEVELOP YOUR PORTFOLIO. Don’t feel bad if you have to do some work for free. As long as you do your best, people will speak highly of you and will actually listen to your work and help you network.
I would say it’s equally important to maintain a positive attitude, have patience, and to work as much as you can – these things will always pay off in the end.
Plus, by developing your portfolio and having the power of positive word-of-mouth from a lot of people behind you, your career will have only one direction to go: up!
Whenever I get overwhelmed or feel unclear about how to move forward in my career, I always remember a phrase that one of my Venezuelan teachers used to repeat over and over again: “music cannot defend itself. It’s our duty to work for music and to defend it.” That helps to keep me focused on and motivated about what I want to do next.
Francisco as lead FOH
RAC: What is the biggest impact that your education in music production has brought to your work? Is it purely technical prowess?
Zisco: Without my audio education, it might have taken me many more years (and several more mistakes) to actually reach the level that I’m at currently. Another beautiful thing about education is that it allows you to understand that this is not an easy field to master, so the level of skill that’s necessary for success isn’t something you should underestimate or take for granted. There is a lot of technicality and artistry that is necessary in this field, so I’d find it extremely hard to start my whole journey over without a professor or instructor to guide me.
I see a lot of people who underestimate the time and skills required to complete projects just because they don’t have an education in the field, which means they didn’t spend those same insane amounts of hours studying, and they just don’t see the value of all the time, energy, and skills that are necessary to create a flawless final product. You end up appreciating musical works more after you study audio and sound.
RAC: You also create your own music! How would you describe your sound? Are there other genres you would like to try?
Zisco: My music is very much meant to make you dance. I’m from the Caribbean, so congas and bongos are a part of me. But even though most of my compositions are very Latino-sounding (like reggaeton, merengue, bachata, and salsa), I would still love to try something different, like ska and rock.
RAC: What do you hope to accomplish through your music and career?
Zisco: Besides being well-known in the music and audio community, I would love for people to actually just purely enjoy my music. I want to appeal to people who want to dance, but then also have my tracks inspire people to discuss some political topics that I hope to eventually touch on in my music.
RAC: What are some big career goals you would like to achieve? Are you currently working on any?
Zisco: Right now I am focusing on my teaching, live sound, and production career. I do have a project that I’m working very hard on, which is my Zisco Music project. Zisco is, and will always be, my life’s project.
Zisco is the total embodiment of my Venezuelan producer dream. I hope that Zisco will represent Venezuela in the industry. I want to touch people and prove that everything is possible with a bit of work and lots of joy. Zisco is that little bit of Caribbean vibe that everybody needs in their life, and I want to share it.
RAC: Thank you for your time Francisco! Can you give us a little peek into what the rest of 2022 has in store for you?
Zisco: I’m actually collaborating on an album with an incredibly talented Mexican artist. I’m the co-composer, recording/editing engineer, and mixing engineer. I can’t give too many details away, but keep an eye out for this future project!
Written by Ania Szneps
llustration by Yihong Guo