When Sara Lyn Killion first moved from Denver to Los Angeles, her plan was to join a ballet company and pursue a career as a professional ballerina. But her love for music and live performances took her life in a different direction. In a recent interview for Metallica’s online blog So What!, Killion recounts her journey from the stage to behind the recording console.
“I moved to join a ballet company out in LA, and when I decided that wasn’t going very well for me, I was like, ‘What else can I do?’ I had a bunch of friends in bands, so I wanted to do live sound. I wanted to be front of house. I wanted to go on tour… I went to a vocational school [in Arizona] to learn more about the whole audio thing because I knew I loved music, I knew I loved bands, I knew I loved the whole scene, but I didn’t really know much. I didn’t know how it all worked.”
After completing her studies, Killion began interning at recording studios in the Los Angeles area and eventually worked her way up to assisting sessions. Her first major studio album credit came from being the mix assistant on the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ critically acclaimed album Stadium Arcadium, through which she began working with producers Greg Fidelman and Rick Rubin.
“I first started working for Greg during Death Magnetic [Metallica]. I think we did one project before, and it was The (International) Noise Conspiracy, we were doing vocals up at Rick’s house on Sunset [Boulevard]. So that was the first thing. And then he called me, which was weird. I was working at a studio called The Pass and I had been working on a Chili Peppers record. That’s how I got into the Rick camp. I got into mixing, the mix side as an assistant on the Stadium Arcadium record.”
When asked about being part of a ballet troupe versus recording rock bands, Killion describes the studio experience as less competitive and more friendly. “You would imagine that rock and roll is tough, but it really isn’t. Everybody looks out for each other, it’s more of a family.” And when asked about her partnership with Fidelman, she explains, “I feel like we’ve got a good teamwork thing. We know, ‘I’m gonna handle this, he handles that,” and if there’s anything I can foresee down the line I’ll try to do it or he’ll try to remind me to get ready for something. So I think it’s great, and it works.”