Over the past couple of years, there has been an increase in sales and interest in vinyl record sales all over the world, and a relatively small yet growing community of vinyl record collectors have emerged in Malaysia. However, newly released vinyl records are hard to come by here in KL, and the selection is pretty limited too (there are tonnes of second-hand and vintage records every weekend at Amcorp Mall in Petaling Jaya).
So Hazlinda Elina spoke to Nick Mun, head of Hard Graft Records, a premiere record store here in KL specializing in vinyl releases and re-issues.
Hello Nick, tell us about what you do and the establishment of Hard Graft Records.
I started Hard Graft Records in April 2012 and have been running it since then. In a nutshell, Hard Graft Records is about making vinyl LPs, primarily new releases and reissues available to lovers of the analogue format here in Malaysia.
What is also pleasant is that Hard Graft Records doesn’t just focus on a niche but caters to many genres from old school bands to upcoming, independent artists making waves today. What are some of your personal favorites and the store’s best sellers?
Some of my personal favourites include records from Swans, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, First Aid Kit, Parquet Courts, Savages, Beak> and DD/MM/YYYY.
The Carcass reissues by Earache Records have also been pretty amazing as far as sound quality is concerned and so are favourites as well. Others reissues worth mentioning include NoMeansNo – Wrong, PiL – First Issue, Sleep – Dopesmoker and Bl’ast! – Blood. The latter, remastered by Dave Grohl in the hallowed Sound City studios.
I also love the reissues put out by Music On Vinyl. They do everything on 180gm audiophile vinyl and so the sound quality is stellar. And on this note, I’m pleased to say that Hard Graft Records is a dealer for Music On Vinyl and has access to their entire catalogue.
The stores best sellers? That’s hard to say since I don’t keep track any more. But the popular titles that come to mind include Tame Impala, Joy Division and GY!BE
Speaking of Hard Graft’s focus that is vinyl LPs, when were the days where you started dabbling into the sphere of vinyl appreciation?
I was first exposed to vinyl as a child in the early to mid 70’s when it was the format really, for music. Those days, the only music shops were record stores that pretty much sold only vinyl and perhaps the 8-track cartridge. But as a matter of appreciation, it would have been between the ages of 16 -18 at friends’ homes after school and college.
Can you recall the experience of buying your first ever vinyl player and what was your first record you bought to go along with it?
It’s such a great experience buying a turntable and the other hi-fi components to go with it. I think it’s something music lovers need to experience at least once. This isn’t to say that one cannot enjoy music with other formats. It’s just that vinyl LPs are able to engage a music lover on so many more levels.
Do you have any particular favorites and go-to places here for the best selection of vinyl players and authentic records?
I don’t really have a favourite place though many would say Amcorp Mall on a weekend is as good a place to start especially for second hand LPs. And as far as equipment is concerned, one may need to venture elsewhere for other makes or brands of equipment that aren’t represented there.
Word has gotten out that Daft Punk and Arctic Monkeys have managed to push the sales of vinyl LPs this year to new heights with nearly half a million LPs bought this year alone. Although the digital era of music is still dominant, how do you think the vinyl renaissance is looking thus far here in Malaysia?
I think that there is a renewed interest in the vinyl format but it is still a very, very niche segment of the market. While sales are up as you rightly pointed out, they still account for less than 2% of all albums sold so far (according to Nielsen SoundScan).
The vinyl demographic has clearly shifted from just veteran buyers to a newfound appreciation amongst the current generation. Do you see a solid future in withstanding vinyl popularity in Malaysia?
I think we can only tell with time. The reason I say this is that the vinyl format requires one to be invested in it. You need to be willing to spend time and money to obtain and enjoy the benefits of the better sound quality. It isn’t a democratic format like digital for instance. Investing in better equipment i.e. spending more money, enables you to extract more musical information from the grooves. And if you stick with it long enough, space for your LP collection will literally, be a big consideration.
Sure, a vinyl collection won’t have the portability and storage efficiency of an iPod. But to those who know the pleasure of putting a record on and sitting back to enjoy it, digital, whether CD or MP3, doesn’t even come close.
But music labels have wised up to an extent. Almost all new vinyl releases come with download codes for the MP3 version of the album. So really, you can have your cake and eat it too.
Interviewed by Hazlinda Elina