From Ballet Dancer To Rock N’ Roll: Get To Know Metallica’s Assistant Engineer Sara Lyn Killion

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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.”

You can check out the full list of Sara Lyn Killion’s album credits here, and listen to Metallica’s latest album Hardwired…To Self-Destruct on Spotify.

The Future is Female – Madame Gandhi at SXSW 2017!

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One of our favorite music producers, Kiran Gandhi (her independent musical projects are under the stage name Madame Gandhi), has had quite the busy month… and it’s only getting started!

This week alone she has performed several showcases at Austin’s annual SXSW Conference and Festival, including two DJ sets for SoulCycle and live performances at TechCrunch Day Party, Empire Control Room & Garage, MOOGfest, Empress, and SheShreds. Gandhi brings surprises and new additions to her show such as the Madame Drum Set (a beautiful gold and yellow acrylic drum set created by DW Drums), various tattoo, sticker, and vinyl merchandise, and songs about the current political state in America.

For the full list of DJ sets, live performances, and panel discussions Gandhi will be participating in for the remainder of SXSW 2017, refer to the flier below:

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And if you missed our Producer Spotlight on Kiran (Madame) Gandhi, you can find it here.

 

 

 

And the winner of the “Dear Daughter Remix Contest” is…

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Last month Gender Amplified teamed up with Halestorm for our “Dear Daughter Remix Contest” where the winner would receive $1000 and a chance to meet frontwoman Lzzy Hale!

And the winner is… TMPO! Check out the mix below, it’s pretty spectacular!

Congratulations and a huge thank you to all who entered!

Make sure to follow TMPO here:
instagram.com/tmpomusik
soundcloud.com/tmpomusic
twitter.com/tmpomusic

Producers on the Rise: Bobbi Giel Talks Impact of Humans of New York Featurette

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“You’re only 22 years old? My daughter just turned 27 and she isn’t as self-actualized as you. You’re going to be fine, I know it.”

That’s what a kind stranger said to me after 15 minutes of small talk and a few drinks each at the MSR Studios closing party back in July. I’m used to giving and receiving frivolous compliments from the joys of complimentary booze at industry parties, but I didn’t know how to respond to being referred to as “self-actualized.”

It reminded me of the time I took a course the spring of my sophomore year of college called “Adult Journey.” The course was two and a half hours once and week, and all we did 90% of the time was watch movies and write reflection papers about how those movies related to our lives. We occasionally colored and had group therapy sessions too.

This was a college course. I’m not kidding.

We spent one class watching The Breakfast Club and our reflection paper asked us to explain whether we identified with the criminal, the princess, the athlete, the brain, or the basket case. I’m pretty sure I wrote about identifying with both the basket case and the brain. I don’t remember exactly, but that combination seems as analogous to my personality now as it did when I was 19.

Another one of our assignments was to present a project about a person we believed to be self-actualized. My group chose John Lennon. Another group chose Oprah. A third group chose Gandhi.

See where I’m going with this?

Compared to those monumental individuals, why would someone consider me to be self-actualized? Almost two months after being given this unwarranted accolade, my reaction hasn’t changed much. I’m 22 years old and graduated from college just over a year ago. My job as a General Assistant at MSR Studios was unfortunately short-lived because of forces beyond anyone’s control. I burn toast and undercook chicken regularly. I lose at least one sock every time I do laundry. I learned what a 401k is two weeks ago. I have no idea what direction I want my life or career to go in, nor do I have a sense of how my presence impacts this world.

I’m not self-actualized – I’m far from it.

And for some reason, I seem to stumble upon situations that make others believe I have my life together. Or as my mom likes to say, “Bobbi, you always seem to fall into s!#$ don’t you?” My mom is very eloquent and honest – that’s why I consider her one of my best friends.

Let’s take being interviewed by Brandon Stanton from Humans of New York, for example.

Y’all have heard of that little blog, right? Close to 18 million people follow it on Facebook or some astronomically ridiculous number like that.

I was dropping my friend off at Juilliard for his graduate school audition when Brandon stopped me. It was a Monday afternoon in late February and I was on call for the studio, so unless a last minute session booked in or a co-worker called out, I had the day off. It was below freezing, I was sick, I had absolutely no makeup on, and my hair was reaching that point where I couldn’t resuscitate it with dry shampoo as I had done the day before. I usually have my earbuds in when I’m walking around the city alone, but for some reason, that day I decided to unplug rather than listen to my ?uestion Mark playlist (if you’re curious about my taste in music, there’s a snazzy link to the playlist below – there’s no theme, hence the title).

When Brandon first approached me, my initial thought was, “Ugh, this random dude is probably going to ask me for money, directions, or both. Look distracted, look distracted!” If you’re a New Yorker, those are two questions you dread being asked on a daily basis. But once he introduced himself and whipped out his camera, I knew what I was getting myself into. My sickly, unkempt appearance was going to be all over the internet along with whatever story I decided to tell.

I was freaking out. I started excessively complaining to Brandon, to which he reassured me, “No, not at all. You look great!”

Lies. Lies.

To confirm how disheveled and awkward I looked, I was on the phone with a friend of mine about a month after the interview went live who hadn’t seen it. Before I could even warn him, he goes, “Yeah… that’s not the best picture of you.”

Life hack – get yourself some brutally honest friends to keep your ego in check.

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After learning my name and a few other basic facts about myself, Brandon’s first serious question for me was, “What is your biggest challenge in life?” How do you answer such a personal question for someone you hardly know? I know that’s the whole premise of Humans of New York, but still. I have trouble communicating even my smallest challenges to my closest friends and family. So in response, I groaned several times in the vocal stylings of Tina Belcher, which inevitably made Brandon ditch the existential questions and start asking me about what I did for work.

More specifically, he asked me to explain what being a General Assistant at a recording studio meant. For me, it meant cleaning toilets every morning and taking multiple 40 gallon trash bags out every night. It meant going on food runs for clients at 2pm or 2am and spending almost 12 hours on a Saturday to set up for a two day Broadway cast recording session. It meant barely any sleep, going rogue for weeks at a time, and spending an absurd amount of money on takeout because none of us ever had time to cook.

Regardless, I’m not saying any of this with contempt. Although I only had the opportunity to call MSR Studios home for six months, they were some of the craziest and greatest six months of my life thus far. When our studios weren’t booked for clients, assistants were able to use them for personal projects, which was a huge luxury. To be able to go in on a Sunday afternoon by myself and record my own music on a 72-input SSL J Series console with what seemed like endless amounts of outboard gear and plugins at my disposal – it was an audio engineer’s dream.

And my co-workers. If one of them didn’t make me laugh until I cried with an ache in the pit of my stomach, my day was ruined. We supported each other and encouraged each other and I consider them all to be my incredibly annoying but affectionate big brothers. What other group of guys will leave a voicemail for you of themselves shouting your name while you’re on vacation or write and record an entire rap song based on you getting fiberglass down your shirt?

I know what you’re thinking.

“I want to hear the song!”

Of course you do. Everyone does. But I’m not going to disclose the title or any of the lyrics because they are mortifying and I can’t listen to the whole song through without my face resembling a ripe tomato. All I will say is the song was a whimsical sentiment of love and adoration that I will always hold dear to my heart.

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When the picture and write up finally went live two weeks after the initial interview, to say the response was overwhelming is a vast understatement. I received hundreds of Facebook messages from people all over the world (Peru, Australia, and France to name a few of the countries people were contacting me from) asking me to listen to their demos and if I was interested in producing them. My phone was buzzing continuously for weeks with text messages, emails, phone calls, and notifications from every social media platform. Atlantic Records reached out to me personally. Organizations such as Gender Amplified, Women’s Audio Mission, and Soundgirls.org welcomed me into their communities of like-minded female audio engineers. Thousands of friendly Internet strangers commended me on my work ethic and humility and wished me success in my career.

Being featured on Humans of New York, without a doubt, changed my life instantaneously.

However, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to feeling like a downright fraud.

I’m going to be vulnerable for a bit and confess a few heavy insecurities about myself to the worldwide web in hopes that those who may read this will understand my fraudulent mentality.

My self-confidence has always been relatively nonexistent. I’m not exaggerating when I say I virtually have none. It’s gotten marginally better over the years, but I still struggle everyday with finding the strength to take pride in myself and my abilities. I’ve been studying, performing, and writing music since I was six years old. I went to two high schools simultaneously (my hometown public high school for academics and a performing arts high school for classical piano) and still managed to be an honors student, a band geek, and a theater kid. I carried at least 18-20 credits a semester in college while working three jobs and graduated when I was 21. I’ve also been extremely fortunate to be continuously employed in my degree field since then.

I’ve accomplished a fair amount, but there’s always this nagging, devilish voice in the back of my mind whispering, “You’re not good enough, Bobbi. Just stop. Quit before people realize you’re actually terrible.”

Remember that scene in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II where Voldemort hijacks everyone’s minds and reproaches Harry in this eerie, hissing voice? The voice in my mind is essentially Voldemort.

With that said, in the wake of my Humans of New York interview, I was suddenly a fresh face for the “Women in Music Production” movement, and the newly placed expectations for me to make a name for myself and have my life together were daunting. I felt unworthy of the attention and praise I experienced and am still experiencing today. There are women in the industry working twice as hard as me and thriving in their careers, yet I was the one profiled. Six months later and I still feel just as unqualified.

But like I mentioned in the beginning, I fall into s!#$.

So how does being on Humans of New York and working at MSR Studios and being referred to as “self-actualized” all relate to one another?

I’m getting there.

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My candid interview also presented an outpouring of comments from young women who were either unaware of the possible career paths in music production or intimidated by the difficulties of being a woman in music production. Because it is hard. It’s really hard. Breaking into the music industry, whether as an artist or audio engineer/producer, is tricky for anyone. Add on the stigmas and societal stereotypes of being a woman, and the journey becomes twice as hard.

My thoughts of being an unconfident, undeserving imposter aside, it was humbling and inspiring to hear these women’s stories. I’ve seriously considered quitting the quest entirely and moving to a rural hillside town in Europe at least a dozen times (I’m a dual citizen of the United States and Italy, so this fantasy may not be so distant in my future), but these confessionals persuaded me to keep persevering and stay true to my goals.

Because here’s the deal. Yes, I am only 22 years old, wide-eyed and intrigued by the world. Yes, I worked at a major recording studio in Manhattan for minimum wage sixty hours a week or more at times, then the facility closed and left me scrambling to figure out what I was going to do next. Yes, I doubt myself and compare myself and am constantly hard on myself. And yes, sometimes I consider giving up on this dream for a career more manageable and stable.

But part of being “self-actualized” means to “seek personal growth and one’s full potential through creativity and independence” (thank you dictionary.com). Everything that has happened in the year and a half since I graduated college has contributed exponentially to my personal growth. And even though my career path has experienced some detours and treacherous terrain recently, I’m determined to live my life in pursuit of my fullest potential, whatever that may be.

So I wouldn’t refer to myself as “self-actualized” like that tipsy gentleman did (he also insisted I learn how to play a Hammond B-3 organ – long story). I like to believe I’m still “figuring it out” – that’s a good millennial way to sum up my situation and every other 20-something year old’s situation, really.

“Work hard, be good to people, enjoy the process, and enjoy your life during the process.” I wish I could remember who or where I heard that from, but it’s a mindset I strive to emulate in my life day by day. I know it’s easy for me to believe because I haven’t been “roughed around the edges by the harsh realities of this cruel, cruel world,” (a miserable, old man I was working with on a live sound gig once said that to me and totally obliterated an already long 16 hour day), but truthfully and maybe even naively, I don’t care. Life is full of highs and lows, and I rather live my life searching for the highs rather than succumbing to the lows.

So yes, I’m not quite sure what the universe has in store for me, but I’m having the time of my life “figuring it out.”

Gender Amplified Presents: Studio Politics Featuring Ebonie Smith

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Gender Amplified is proud to present ‘Studio Politics,’ a new web series that takes you in the studio with our founder and award-winning music producer and engineer Ebonie Smith. Known for engineering work on Hamilton (Original Broadway Cast Recording) and other notable projects, each and every episode Ebonie will take you behind the scenes to talk about the process of making music at the major level and working as a staff producer/engineer for Atlantic Records in NYC. There won’t be a dull moment as Ebonie produces and composes records on the spot and discusses music production and technology with a cast of talented collaborators and industry insiders. Tune in and SUBSCRIBE!

Studio Politics

Gender Amplified Presents ‘Pre Pro,’ A Web Series Featuring Joy Sandford

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Pre Pro

Gender Amplified is proud to present Pre Pro, a new web series by LA-based music producer and engineer Joy Sandford! Join Joy as she recaps her days and nights working with artists and engineering recording sessions. Her journey to the top is hilarious, informative and the basis for this awesome video journal about the ups and downs of chasing your dreams!

As an accomplished artist with technical training from the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at New York University, Joy has worked for Atlantic Records and Daddy’s House Recording Studios, the studio home of legendary music label Bad Boy Records. As an artist on the rise, her story is inspiring and motivational to others just like her. These webisodes come to you each week on the official Gender Amplified Youtube channel. Tune in and enjoy!

Pushing Buttons Collective: Calling All Producers to Submit for Live Beat-making Battle

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Pushing Buttons Collective

Pushing Buttons Collective is a band of like-minded artists building community under the umbrella of instrumental music. The group hosts a radio series, Pushing Buttons Radio, that strives to showcase the best in instrumental beats and culture. The show runs the gamut from lo-fi to wonky, from instrumental hip hop to house, from broken beat to future beats.

Keeping with the spirit of its mission, on Friday, September 9th, Pushing Buttons Collective will host “Kicks and Snares,” a monthly beat cypher for producers at the Friends and Lovers venue in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, New York. The show will take place from 7-10pm.

Calling All Producers: If you’d like to be considered to showcase your live beat-making skills at this event, please submit your tracks directly to the group’s official email account pushingbuttonscollective@gmail.com!

 

Filmmaker, Illustrator Luna Adler Profiles Gender Amplified Movement in Animate Video

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Filmmaker, illustrator and recent Barnard College graduate Luna Adler explores three spaces run by professional women: These spaces are special because they exist to solve problems created by gender inequity. In this multi-media video collage, Gender Amplified founder Ebonie Smith speaks about the ways Gender Amplified is re-imagining studios as women-defined spaces. She shares her work to make the music production industry safer and more welcoming for young women.

Luna Adler

About Luna!

“Luna Adler is a filmmaker, illustrator, and writer, whose work centers around the topics of social justice and feminism. In 2014, she traveled extensively throughout Nepal, India, and Bhutan, researching ancient Tibetan childbirth practices and the ways they have been transformed by life in exile. Luna graduated from Barnard College with a degree in anthropology in 2015, and was a recipient of the Howard M. Teichmann Writing Prize. She now lives in Brooklyn where she can generally be found drawing woodland creatures, listening to political podcasts, and rollerblading.” – LunaAdler.com

 

Gender Amplified Receives 2016 Awesome Grant Award

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Gender Amplified Receives Awesome Grant

In January of 2016, Gender Amplified received a grant from the Awesome Foundation’s New York chapter to support work we’re doing in our community. Read the full announcement to learn more about the award and the foundation.

According to its website, The Awesome Foundation is a “global community advancing the interest of awesome in the universe, $1000 at a time. Each fully autonomous chapter supports awesome projects through micro-grants, usually given out monthly. These micro-grants, $1000 or the local equivalent, come out of pockets of the chapter’s “trustees” and are given on a no-strings-attached basis to people and groups working on awesome projects.”

Gender Amplified is proud to be recognized by this community of givers. The award meant a great deal to our board of directors and our investors, but it will mean that much more to all the girls and women who benefit from our mentorship programs, community events and ongoing support.

Erin Tonkon Engineers New Album by Esperanza Spalding & More

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In 2013, Gender Amplified interviewed Erin Tonkon, a budding music producer attending the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music. She spoke eloquently about her passion for making music and her goals for her career.

Since that time, Erin has emerged to become one of the new faces in the world of rock music production. Shortly after our interview with her, she began working full time as an engineer and production assistant for legendary producer Tony Visconti.

Today her production credits are vast and varied. Some of the highlights in her discography include David Bowie’s ★ Blackstar and Esperanza Splalding’s latest offering Emily’s D+ Evolution.

 

One of the goals of Gender Amplified is to identify young talent that has the potential to reshape the production landscape of the music business. Erin’s trajectory and growth is a testament to that mission. We look forward to keeping up with Erin on her journey to the top and beyond!

Artist Spotlight: Gender Amplified Alumna Genesis Be Breaks Barriers on Stage and at U.S. Capitol

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Gender Amplified alumna Genesis Be, who was a performer at our 2013 music festival, recently shocked the world with her performance at S.O.B’s in NYC. In protest of Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant’s proclamation of April as Confederate Heritage Month, Be draped her body in the Confederate battle flag and hung a noose around her neck during her groundbreaking performance. The event was covered by Billboard Magazine. A link to the full interview is below.

Rapper Genesis Be Debuts ‘My GCK,’ Talks Confederate Flag Protest & Mississippi Pride: Exclusive Premiere

As a music producer, Genesis has a long history of using her art as a means of bringing forth social change. In response to her convictions, a number of news outlets have given Genesis a platform to further explain her mission to have the state of Mississippi officially retire the use of the Confederate battle flag in the design of the federally recognized state flag.

 

Genesis Be has something special. She is an artist of the future who has a politically charged message that aligns well with the social climate of today.

Gender Amplified – as a music platform – supports artists like Genesis Be, who use their work to inspire change in our world. Be is on her way, and our organization has been supporting her since the very beginning.

 

Producer Profile Interview: Stoni

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Stoni

This profile is dedicated to introducing our readers to Stoni. When you think of hard hitting hip-hop beats and with sophisticated melodies, there’s only one name that comes to mind. Stoni is a Brooklyn native who grew up listening to everything from Bob Marley and Stevie Wonder to Prince and The Rolling Stones. Stoni currently works with Native Instruments as a product specialist and musical hardware trainer for the industry’s A-list music makers. Using Native Instruments Maschine drum machine as her weapon of choice, Stoni is taking music making to a whole new level. Stoni agreed to answer a few questions about her production work for the Gender Amplified blog. Check it out!

What first sparked your interest in music production?

I’ve always loved music. My parents had very eclectic taste in music so I was listening to music before I could even walk.

Tell us a little about the first track you ever produced. 

I was an assistant engineer in a studio, and the producer whose session I was in had equipment that he wasn’t using. He told me that if I came back with some tracks I could keep the gear and use it to make music. I went home that night. I had my record player, sampled some vinyl and chopped it up. I stayed up all night working on it. I went to the studio the next day and played the beat for the producer. He told me that the beat was crazy and that I could keep the gear.

Where is the craziest place you ever made a track?

It was in my car while I was waiting for my clothes to dry at the laundry mat.

What types of gear and software do you use to produce?

Currently I’m using Maschine, Komplete Ultimate, Ableton and VSTs with for production. Pro Tools for mixing.

Stoni Native Instruments

Where are some of your favorite places to find and buy gear?

Fortunately for me, I’ve built some pretty great relationships with technology companies over the years, and I’ve been a beta tester for many of them. So, I haven’t bought gear in a while.

Tell us a little bit about the work you do for Native Instruments? 

Currently I’m a Product Specialist/Artist Relations Representative for Native Instruments (NI). I train A-list producers on how to incorporate NI gear in their production set ups (i.e. Maschine Studio, Komplete and Traktor). I’ve probably trained your producer’s favorite producer. I also perform at festivals and seminars using Maschine Studio, Komplete, and Traktor during beats showcases. I introduce A-list producers and up-and-coming producers to Native Instruments and bring them together for future business opportunities and endorsements.

Name some of the awesome producers you have had a chance to work alongside in this role. What makes them awesome?

I’ve had the opportunity to work with 40 (Noah Shebib), Young Chop, Cool and Dre, The Runners, S1, Focus, Illmind, 9th Wonder, Tha Bizness, A$AP Ty, Cardiak, Sak Pase, THX, and Ivan and Carvin. The body of work and the time that they’ve put into their careers makes them all awesome.

What are your ultimate goals for your career as a music producer?

First and foremost my goal is to create incredible music and be an inspiration to producers and artists. I want to give opportunities to creative peoplewhether they are artists, web designers, producers, engineers, graphic artists, and DJ’s.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out in music production? What is one piece of advice he/she should know?

The first thing I would say is to master your craft. Make sure you’re prepared when opportunity knocks on your door. Create your own sound. Always have something of value to offer. Learn the business that you’re getting into and don’t be afraid to start your own movement. Keep your sword sharpened. And last but not least, believe in yourself and always surround yourself with people who are masters of their trade. There’s no one else like you on the planet, so never compare yourself to anyone else.

Tell us where to find your music online.

Website – http://www.stonisworld.com/

Soundcloud – https://soundcloud.com/beatsbystoni

Twitter – https://twitter.com/StonisMusic

Instagram – http://instagram.com/stonismusic