Devyn Marzuola | Voltage Records, Radio Host and Vinyl DJ

Meet Devyn Marzuola, a ‘Jill of all trades’ and master of them too. She works at Voltage Records in Asheville, NC, is a radio show host, and all vinyl DJ.  Whether she’s making fliers for local shows, DJing gigs, curating her radio show, or slinging records at the record store, she keeps fully immersed in the vinyl world. Her show ‘Too Dark for Disney‘ has been airing weekly on AshevilleFM and is a two hour free form music show that can be best described as, “a supersonic stew, from deep dusty gems to present-day ditties“. Before Covid hit, she held a residency two nights a week, one being old soul and rock n roll high energy dance party stylings, and the other a more punk, post-punk, doomy, no wave weeknight hang out situation. 

In her free time: “For my sanity, I need to get out into nature. I love long hikes, and long city walks, too. I deeply enjoy reading, painting, drawing… DIY arts and crafts for the win!”

How did you get into your industry / What motivated you?

My mom has been a working musician for all of my waking life, so she was dragging me to gigs and music stores from the beginning. Music stores have always been my favorite places to get lost in. As soon as I could drive, you bet I was hanging out at the local record shops quite a bit. I was begging to be hired at these sorts of shops years before I finally got a job at one. My first record store job was at Bop Street Records (now sadly closed) in Seattle. Bop Street was moving locations, so I started volunteering there nearly every day, helping to move all of the inventory. The owner, Dave, and I really hit it off during that long and arduous move. Once every thing was transported over and unpacked, Dave offered me a job at the new spot. My knowledge of music grew extensively during this time. While working at Bop Street, I also learned quite a bit about the business side of things, which helped me land a job at Voltage Records, where I am now.

Regarding radio, I have always been fascinated by radio. As a kid, I would call the radio station all of the time requesting songs and asking my favorite disc jockey weird questions about how it all worked. I really don’t know how to explain it, all I know is that I consider radio to be complete magic and one of the coolest mediums in the universe. Because radio has always blown my mind, it really is no surprise to me that I found myself involved in it. My initiation into radio started when I was 22 and still living in Austin. My friend had mentioned to me that a new radio station had just started up, so I looked it up online and saw that there were still some open air spots on their calendar. I immediately emailed them and was interviewed a couple of days later. My show was added to their calendar the following week. This particular station was very low bandwidth, so you could only hear it on the actual radio airwaves for a one mile radius! But it also streamed online. When I moved to Seattle, I continued to produce my show and send it in.

When it comes to DJing, once I realized that it was possible to essentially do what I do on the radio but in a live room, I was determined to get involved. I love creating the mood of a space through music. My friend and co-worker at Bop Street had a weekly gig at a cool little bar, and he would let me come play records with him from time to time, so that is how I initially got started. When I moved to Asheville, I met some folks who played records around town. I eventually ended up asking a friend if I could join her on one of her nights. Shortly thereafter, I was offered my own night. Funny thing is, by DJing out, I got the attention of someone involved with the local radio station, AshevilleFM, and I was offered a radio spot! Too Dark for Disney was revived. Full circle!

What is a day in the life like?

This past year has been full of long walks and staring into the void, ahem. The whole world is quite different than it used to be. My schedule used to be packed with preparing for DJ gigs, going to shows, working my multiple jobs and generally just buzzing around. The busy schedule is no longer. I feel so blessed that I still get to do my radio show once a week. I love being in the station for those two hours. I have long said that radio is like therapy for me, and it really rings true this year in particular.

Right when we went into quarantine, I cleaned and reorganized my record collection. Lately, I’ve been putting a good deal of my energy into working on projects that have long been on the back burner.  I am currently creating two zines that have been dancing in my head for far too long. Also forcing myself to draw a doodle a day. I have been cleaning out and organizing the back room of the shop as well. Currently, I am mostly going through the 45s, cleaning the good ones and tossing the bad. Once those piles are tackled, I shall tackle the LPs.

In your opinion what has been your favorite / the coolest thing you’ve worked on?

The craziest thing that comes to mind is this. When I was working at Bop Street, a woman donated her husband’s record collection to us.  He had developed late stage Parkinson’s and they decided they needed to dwindle down on their belongings. A couple of days after the boxes were dropped off at the store, the woman called to let us know that she had just remembered that her husband used to stick money in record sleeves. As we were going through the records, one of us found twenty bucks stuck down in the inner sleeve. And then I found another twenty bucks… and then a hundred bucks… and then five bucks… We ended finding over $3,500!  He had hidden a nugget of savings in his records.  We called the woman to let her know how much we found and she ended up donating that money to the local food bank. I just love it. The moral of the story, if you’re buying used records, always check those sleeves!  

A personal favorite memory of mine is when I made a mixtape for David Lynch and I actually got to hand it to him. He pulled out the tape, looked at the list of songs and said, “Oh, The Blue Rondos! I love The Blue Rondos! Thank you for keeping old music alive!” I cried.

Are you a vinyl collector yourself? What drew you to it?

Oh yes. I grew up listening to my mom’s old records and I have always gravitated to vinyl for some reason. As soon as I was earning money, I was buying records. I don’t even want to know how much money I have spent on records. Record collecting, like any kind of collecting, varies in extremity and it is a weird obsession that I definitely have. I am not one of those traditional collectors that needs 3 or 4 copies of the same record, but I am definitely a digger and could spend an ungodly amount of time scouring the crates.

What advice do you have for someone wanting to get into pursuing what you’re doing? Any tips + maybe some resources you like.

Do not be afraid to put yourself out there! I am not sure what exact advice to give, but I do believe that vigilance is very important.  

If you’re passionate about something, it is undeniable. And if you’re steadfast, you’re bound to get somewhere. I also think that being open and inquisitive really does do wonders. If you really do love some thing and you really do want some thing, keep trying till you get it.

The combination of all of these things eventually paid off for me.

What has been / is the most difficult part of your job?

Oof. There are a couple of difficult things but, sexism for 800, Alex! Regarding DJing, if a friend who happens to be male is standing next to me, I cannot tell you how often people assume that the male is the one playing the records. One time, someone actually came up and asked me if the guy standing beside me was teaching me how to DJ. This sort of stuff used to really bother me, and it still does… but at this point, there is not much I can really do about the ignorance in others. By now, I have no problem maniacally laughing as my response.

There have been times at the record store, when someone comes in to sell their records, they are confused and surprised that I am the one who will be going through them. I have a very hard time wrapping my mind around what exactly is so weird or confusing here. To me, it is pretty simple, I was hired for these positions because I am qualified for these positions.

Another difficult thing that I have noticed and want to quickly mention is a disturbing mixture of some people’s sense of entitlement and need for instant gratification. This is mostly in reference to when I DJ. Now do not get me wrong here, I love requests, but I also play only vinyl; so what I bring is what I bring. If I have what someone requests of course I will play it, and quite gladly, but I can’t conjure something out of thin air no matter how many times you ask.  And no, I will not just plug in your phone. These sorts of occurrences are pretty rare, but when they happen, it’s a real bummer. I wish people could just appreciate the moment. If I don’t have that one song that someone simply must hear right now it certainly shouldn’t make someone feel offended, and it is definitely not the end of the world. Do not worry.

Sexism, instant gratification and entitlement are all huge problems running rampant in our society, so I try to not let these sorts of interactions break my brain over and over again. All that said, I feel so honored to get to do what I do. 98% of my experiences in the musical world have been quite glorious, which has made putting up with the remaining 2% of trash much easier.

What types of things are happening in your industry / with vinyl that you’re excited or worried about? i.e. innovation, or trends you’re seeing.

I am obviously excited that vinyl sales are on the rise. I am not excited that some of the labels pressing re-issues are subpar, regarding sound and quality. I think it is very important to check the label before buying. Regading new releases, record prices have gone up quite a bit in the past few years, which I don’t personally like, as a buyer or a seller. As sellers, there is nothing we can really do about this though, as we have to order our new inventory from the very few distribution companies that exist, and the distributors play a heavy hand in setting the prices. Actually in general, when I really think about it, doesn’t every thing just seem way more expensive these days?

During this time we’re currently in, what message do you have for music and vinyl fans? How can we support you, the industry?  

I am sure I sound like a broken record here but, support independent local businesses!  If you are looking for something, call your local record shop first to see if they have it or if they can order it for you. Check with your local record shop before shopping online. Scope out an independent record store before heading to a box store. I cannot tell you how disheartening it is to see someone walking through the doors with an Urban Outfitters bag full records. Most likely, the independent record shop has the records that you just bought from a heartless monopolized big business. It really is a life or death situation for specialized shops these days, so please remember that and be mindful of who you are giving your money to.

Tell me what you’re listening to right now:

I love all kinds of music, but post-punk and heavy Sabbath style metal will always hold a very special place in my heart. Lately I have been listening to lots of Charlie Megira, John Cale, Grouper, The Raincoats, The Bats, Broadcast and Alice Coltrane. The new record, A Hero’s Death, by Fontaines D.C. is really great. Julianna Barwick’s most recent release, Healing is a Miracle, is top notch, too!

Find Devyn:

Instagram:

Devyn: @bongomamaofficial

Voltage Records: @voltagerecordsnc

Facebook: @voltageavl

Website: 

Too Dark for Disney (Mixcloud): www.mixcloud.com/TooDarkforDisney

Too Dark for Disney (Radio Station link): www.ashevillefm.org/show/too-dark-for-disney

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