As part of Chapter 51: Leaders, Wax Poetics Editor-In-Chief Andre Torres visited John King at Chung King Studios to hear how he built the legendary institution from the ground up. We’ll leave it to Andre to explain the significance and history of Chung King below, but you’ll soon get the gist of John’s contributions to music by watching the abridged version of their chat above.

John King is a lightning bolt of energy. After over three decades in the game, the proprietor of the legendary Chung King Studios shows no signs of slowing down. Speaking quickly with a deserved air of authority, he rifles through topics ranging from chemically stimulated marathon recording sessions to the subtle distinction between rap and hip-hop.

After starting Secret Society Records in 1979, John set up a studio above an old restaurant in Chinatown that became home to many of the rising punk and hip-hop acts of the time. A consummate music head with his finger on the pulse, he soon developed a work/play relationship with Def Jam Records founders Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons. Playing the role of engineer, backseat producer, and all-around technical wizard, John shaped the big sound of hip-hop that paved the way for its early commercial success.

Though christened Chung King House of Metal by Rubin in 1986, the studio has since abridged its name, relocated to Midtown Manhattan, and now stands as one of the top recording studios on the planet. As we sat in the main room to chat about his extensive career, John’s frenetic vigor instantly set the pace. Before we could even get a question out, he was off and running.