We had the good fortune of connecting with Zaul Lizalde and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Zaul, what role has risk played in your life or career?
In this day, age, and culture my entire existence is a risk. I chose to be an artist and I consistently choose to do things that don’t have a guarantee of succeeding. It challenges me and forces me to bring out the best in myself. If you live life too afraid to ever risk anything you will never truly experience the joys in life. You will never be vulnerable enough with someone to have a real relationship, all your dreams and ambitions will just silently weigh on you, and you might lose respect for yourself in the process. On the other side of risk is reward. If you eliminate the fear of failure or choose to only view failure as feedback for you to make micro-adjustment’s on your path to success, you can achieve just about anything because your ego won’t be continually shattered and you will simply figure things out over time.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Ever since I was a child i’ve been obsessed with learning, creating, and aesthetic experiences. If you give me a pencil I will draw, If you give me an instrument I will learn it, if you take everything from me and leave me on and Island I will sing. It’s kinda hard for me to talk about what separates my art without seeming like i’m boasting. What I will say is I care very much about learning the technical aspects of any medium and becoming truly competent. I also highly value maintaining a sense of authenticity in my art and making things I truly enjoy and can be proud of. I mostly make art for myself. I’ve seen a lot of people make music for the wrong reasons, if it’s about your ego, social status, or money than it can almost never be a pure expression, at least in my experience. It has to be some type of compulsion/calling. It’s a spiritual journey and experience in many respects.
Some of my earliest memories are of drawing. I used to draw things like the teenage mutant ninja turtles or spiderman and tape them on my walls like poster’s as young as probably 4 or 5. This would inevitably drive my mom crazy and she would take them all down. Eventually I would just keep filling them up again.
The obsession with music developed around the same time. Experiences like seeing my cousin Emma playing guitar at my grandparents house in Tijuana, or hearing Blink 182 on the beach in Rosarito left a profound impression on me. I just remember being completely drawn to it. From that point on I bugged my parents to get me a guitar as much as I could til’ they eventually finally caved and got me a 100 dollar classical somewhere off of the military base we lived on in Spain for my 8th birthday. The excitement of the possibilities of guitar wore off as it does for most children when I realized how complex it actually was and that I didn’t really know how to go about learning. The guitar would remain untouched for another 4 years.
My father having been in the military might’ve had some role in fostering my relationship with music. Constant moving meant constant change so the only consistent thing in my life was my family and music. My older brother was the one who initially picked up the guitar. I don’t remember if he refused to show me how, if he didn’t have the communication skills necessary to express it in a way that made sense to me, or whether I lacked the capacity to grasp it, but I specifically remember he never successfully showed me how to read tablature.
It seems almost serendipitous now looking back but my whole musical journey really began one day when I just stared at the tabs of songs he had sprawled across the bed. My eyes studied it and kept looking back at the guitar and in one moment I had connected the dots. Each line corresponded to a specific string, the one at the bottom was the thickest, and each number corresponded to the number of a fret, suddenly I was capable of teaching myself how to play basically anything. I was probably 12. Maybe less than a year after that my friend Jon’s dad had chord charts hanging around his house and explained to me how they worked and I attempted it on my own. The first song I ever taught myself was Hotel California by The Eagles, which is actually a really hard song for beginner’s to learn for their first chord based song. It has a lot of chords and it’s riddled with bar chords which are notoriously difficult for beginners. But I was just so obsessed with the song I was determined to learn.
Pretty soon after I started playing guitar I stopped drawing consistently. I found an identity and a sense of community in being a musician that put me in a lot of amazing situations growing up. I went through short periods where i had different music teacher’s for different instruments or singing/songwriting and eventually picked up more instruments and just tinkered with them till they made sense and learned off of youtube. Which ultimately led to me going to The Icon Collective around 2016.
The process of completing the schooling was the most challenging period of my life. I worked for about 12-14 hours a day almost every day that I wasn’t working and would routinely commute back and forth 2-3 times a week for music school from Temecula to Burbank and back. I lost my job about halfway through the year, I assumed that was the end of my formal post secondary musical education. The tuition cost 2 grand a month, which at the time I was paying out of pocket. But my parents had never seen me work so hard for anything in my life so they took out a private loan for the rest of it on my behalf. A gesture which I will never be able to fully express gratitude for.
After that I pretty much decided I had no reason to stay in Temecula so I just slept on different producers couches in LA for months. I’d often stare up night at the ceiling wondering whether I was crazy for doing it but I just felt I had to. Eventually a friend of mine took me in and allowed me to rent a room for 800 a month at his place, but that was not without it’s challenges. He meant well but he had a heavy drug problem at the time which made the living situation challenging at times to say the least.
For anyone who doesn’t know The Icon Collective is one of the most if not the most prestigious music production school in the world. It has had notable acts that came through the program such as Slander, Sumthin Sumthin, Kompany, Sippy, Sullivan King, HVDES, and NGHtMRE amongst many others. It’s basically the Hogwarts of music production and where I learned music production from the ground up. It’s an environment where creating is the norm and you all of a sudden are surrounded by people with the same common goal to an extent and it becomes very normal to be surrounded by musical excellence. In my opinion it was entirely worth it.
After graduating I worked mainly as an Audio/visual technician and had a short career as a playback engineer for an A-list artist. I was given the job based on a on the fact that I had befriended the songwriting teacher at my school who was in charge of looking at the applications and she put in a good word for me. I was not technically knowledgeable enough at the time in my engineering to really handle the opportunity so I was let go shorty after starting. I was a bit bitter but took it as an opportunity to learn photography since my mom had allowed me to borrow her Canon T3I since I was going to start traveling. The goal initially was just to become good at photography.
I would walk around with my camera attached to me just about everywhere I went and it just led to me having a reputation of being a photographer and having people ask me to shoot them. I eventually befriended a promoter named J and he connected me to the LA night life scene. This led to me working with a foundation called Karma for awhile as an event photographer. At one point they used to throw the Playboy parties and still throw really amazing high end events. The founder Marvin Epstein developed a liking towards me and eventually contacted me one morning asking if I’d like to to shoot an event. I felt that I was at a point where I wanted to stop doing free work for exposure so I expressed I would do it under the condition it was compensated. He assured me it was and that I need to trust him, that I will want to do this.
Turns out the event was the rapper Desiigner’s birthday party held at Jake Paul’s house in Calabasas at the time and the pay was the equivalent of a months rent in some cities. Needless to say I was excited. The event was absolutely stacked with influencer’s and celebrities and to this day was probably still the best experience I’ve had as a photographer to this day. That led to me shooting Tana’s Mongeau’s 21’st birthday, Logan Paul’s Luau, Jake and Tana’s wedding, and just a general exposure to the LA influencer/celebrity event environment.
Around 2019 I decided to quit my job as a music teacher and go full time into providing for myself through my different artistic services. Making ends meet shooting photo and video for weddings, music video’s, commercials, portraits, high end events, music lessons, studio sessions, selling beats, mixing, and live sound. It does not come without it’s challenges. My goals get clearer as time goes on but there’s a fair bit of just taking whatever comes my way. Which is a blessing and curse. But, at the least it keeps me engaged and allows me to experience novel situations and utilize my creativity.
At this current point in time I’ve been focusing on learning to engineer more and releasing more music I’ve produced with Singer/Songwriter/Rapper/
Overall I’d say I’ve learned your network really means a lot. The way you make people feel matters and your ability to instill confidence in other in your abilities in others is a huge determining factor in the amount of opportunities life will present you. I’ve learned that amazing things can happen when you are just pleasant to be around and you focus on what you love and nurture it. I never initially had these intentions of working with celebrities or penetrating the exclusive LA night life culture, it came as a byproduct of me being true to myself and being useful to other’s. You can learn almost anything from youtube, and it pays to work hard.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Definitely Rodini Park on the food end. I absolutely love Gyro’s. I used really enjoy going to Amoeba records when it was around, so in theory in a perfect universe Amoeba. If I want to get drinks in a fun environment and not worry about a line too much I like El Tejano. Ideally there’d be an afterparty in the hills to go to. Icon Collective tour if they appreciate art. In my opinion while LA is definitely an aesthetically pleasing city I’d probably be more focused on introducing my friends to friends of mine who I think they would gel with or who can show us a new experience. The most amazing part of LA to me is the really exceptional people you meet and develop relationships with.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
First and foremost, I’d have to thank my parents. At the end of the day I can rest knowing they’d give an arm for me. The love, character, and support they have given me has been foundational to everything. Aside from them I’d like to thank my friends and anyone who ever took the time to teach me anything or put an opportunity to grow in front of me, I appreciate it more than you could ever know.
Facebook: Zaul Lizalde
Main Photo Was Shot by Daniel Juarez @Syberian Tyger on instagram Other photos included, Desiigner, Lil Xan, Diablo, Jake Paul, Logan Paul, Adam 22, Modsun and Riley Reid