Interview: Tandang Store’s Wan and Alak

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By James Rivers. Photo courtesy of Tandang Store.

Tandang Store, currently situated within well-known punk venue Rumah Api, is operated by Wan Hazril and Alak. At a glance it might appear just a record store but in reality it is more of a collective, curating the regularly occurring Not-A-Fest showcase, printing Shock and Awe zine and participating in many other projects within the DIY punk community. Due to the development of the SUKE highway, which will see most of Pekan Ampang demolished, Wan and Alak have decided to move Tandang to a new location in Kampung Attap, although the future of Rumah Api itself remains unknown. We sat down with them to talk about the store and what changes they expect will accompany its relocation.

Tell us about the origins of Tandang Store, how did it start?

Alak:  Actually before Tandang both of us had our own distro’s, Wan had Cactus Records and I had Knot Records. One day we were at Rumah Api, which at the time had a vacant space upstairs, and thought it would be a nice place for a shop. That was when we decided to collaborate.

Wan:  The place had been empty for 6 months.

Alak:  It used to be somebody’s room.

How long ago was that?

Wan:  3 years ago. 2013.

Alak:  But Wan started his distro in 1999 and I started in 2001. Though we didn’t have physical shops.

Wan:  We used to just take crates of records to gigs. But its tiring, sometimes if you’re drunk you might forget some records.

Alak:  And we would do mail order, both for buying and selling.

Wan:  I think when we looked at the empty space in Rumah Api we both saw potential. At that time running a record store had always seemed like something difficult to do but it was actually quite simple. We started with just one box of LP’s. Records were just starting to get popular again, people started buying vinyl a lot.

Alak:  At that time we only knew of two other record shops, Ricecooker Shop and Basement Records, and they had both closed. So there were no record stores, so we wanted to start our own DIY record store for KL

So what did you stock in the beginning? What was in that first crate?

Wan:  There was always a balance we had to have between stocking what we liked and not being delusional about what we thought we could sell. We used to have listening sessions over drinks, with a lot of discussion. That was where most of our feedback came from early on.

Alak:  That’s also why it’s good to have two people because it needs to be an agreement between us that something is worthwhile.

Wan:  Trading also influenced our stock. In the early 2000’s alot of people were running their own record labels, so a tonne of people just distributed their own personal preferences and would trade with one another. At the time Knot (Alak’s distro) was more of a record label and focused on the local scene, Cactus (my distro) mostly distributed for touring bands so we were kind of already working together in an indirect way, trading stuff and so on. We became more connected through hanging out and drinking together.

Alak:  Tandang is actually a name of a street in PJ where we used to drink, that’s where the name came from. There’s a small park there that we used to hang out in.

Wan:  Azzief knows about it, ask him. [The small park on Jalan Tandang in PJ was a pretty popular drinking spot for scene kids in general a few years ago, mostly due to the presence of a nearby Indian restaurant-cum-watering-hole nearby that stocks a reasonable amount of different beers, from >10%ABV no-name beers to your garden variety Carlsberg and Heineken. – Azzief]

In regards to separating from Rumah Api, how do you think it will change Tandang?

Alak:  I think the change of location can be good for us. The new location will be more accessible rather than being limited to only the DIY and punk community within Rumah Api. At the moment most of our customers are people who know about the store through attending gigs. Other than that, we don’t really have the public coming in. We’ve had complaints in the past because of our remote location.

Wan:  There are definitely pros and cons to the separation: we are absolutely going to miss the atmosphere there, there is such a good vibe and if Rumah Api can relocate then we plan on still having a store with them. Rumah Api’s plans are uncertain at the moment though because even they are unclear about when they have to move out. We felt like we needed to find a place now before we are left with nowhere to go.

Alak:  We will hopefully do shows in the new place. But not big shows. Another change is that now we can’t be open every day but the new store can.

Wan:  It’s a good thing for me, it will be healthier to have a routine every day. Now I am a day sleeper. I need to have something like a “normal” job, but definitely not a 9 to 5.

When is the new Tandang Store going to open? Will there be a launch party?

Alak:  At this stage we are hoping to open in January as the new space is currently being renovated.

Wan:  There might be a show for the launch, it will depend on the shops and businesses around us and whether they will be ok with it. Hopefully!

Check out their facebook for more information or stop in to the Tandang Store on a Friday or Saturday night during their opening hours to pick up some music, merch or zines. Wan wants to let the ladies know that he is single and available in store. For urgent inquiries regarding these matters call or text 016 333 0745.

James RiversAfter escaping from his native New Zealand, James Rivers arrives at The Wknd as the token mat salleh, bringing with him a paler musical perspective. Being a drummer, producer, DJ, engineer and general music obsessive himself he has a critical but open ear to any style and spends most of his free time hunting down innovative and interesting tunes.