As a music lover who enjoyed collecting music CDs during his youth, Woo Wing Keat has since graduated to collecting vinyl records full time 10 years ago.
Today he has amassed a collection of over 3,000 vinyl records that fill an entire room.
My dad loved music and, growing up, he would play me The Beatles and I grew to like their music. I started with CDs, actually. In secondary school, I would save my pocket money just to buy a few CDs a month. Then, I went to the UK to study and people would do car boot sales and you would find a lot of things, especially CDs and LPs. Some of my first records were the classic rock of Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and Rainbow because they were only one or two pounds each back then. I got my first record player after coming back to Malaysia and 10 years ago was when I started to seriously collect vinyl records.
There is something about vinyl that just sounds better. To me, there are aspects that make one format better than the other and vice versa, but that’s why I collect both. A lot of people say vinyl sounds more organic because you can’t hear the digital harshness, the digitalisation of the sound waves that you get in CDs, resulting in a more natural sound. But I don’t particularly believe that one format is superior to the other— you’ve got to have a good setup and a discerning ear to really talk about the sonic quality between vinyl and CD.
My favourite titles change depending on mood, but there are some I really treasure. The first is Rafael Anton Irisarri, who is my favourite ambient drone artist and I won a few autographed copies of his album. Another is Akira Sakata’s The Tale of the Seike. He’s a Japanese experimental jazz saxophonist and you can hear that he was influenced by Albert Ayler, who sort of started the free jazz genre. One more is Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement’s Ambient Black Magic, which samples ambient jungle sounds in some of the tracks. There’s also Ben Webster, my favourite musician, I have a reissue of At The Renaissance from Analogue Productions.
Among the rarer albums that I own are the original 1997 pressing of Gas’ Zauberberg, the original pressing of Tsuyoshi Yamamoto Trio’s Midnight Sugar, as well as an autographed copy of The Sight Below’s Glider. I acquired the first two from some collector friends, while I was lucky to find the last one in a record shop in America.
I travel a lot, especially to the United States, which is like heaven to me because they have good records that I can’t find here! I would drop by a record shop wherever I was and slowly my collection grew. Now it’s easier because you can buy everything online, so I get my records shipped in from Chicago, the UK and parts of Europe. My music tastes have changed a little, so it’s hard to find what I want here in KL. But I still go to music events, the Amcorp Mall flea market and the few record shops left.
To a certain extent, it’s become an addiction to own as many albums as possible. I listen to a wide range of genres, and I own multiple versions, different pressings from different years and even on CD. In the mind of the completionist, you’d want to collect every album in an artist’s discography. For instance, I have almost 50 John Coltrane albums, but there are more that I’m still missing. I have over 8,000 CDs, almost 3,000 vinyls and various boxsets in both formats, most of which are limited runs and out of print. However, I had to start somewhere. If you love music enough and you’re passionate, it is something that will build. It really helps when you start with what you like.
TEXT NEDA AL-ASEDI & SWAROOPINI UDHAYA NAIR
ART DIRECTION AUDREY LIM & MON KAI-SIONG
PHOTOGRAPHY PATRICK CHAN