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.

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!