Diabolical Records: 10 years of being a ‘lifeblood’ for Salt Lake’s music community

For their 10th anniversary, the store is offering specials this week and a free party at the International Bar on Saturday

For customers like Rhett Hanson, Salt Lake City’s Diabolical Records is a safe haven, a place to find unique music, meet friends and buy some physical music media — vinyl, cassettes or CDs — to add to the collection.

“Having a shop like this builds a trust and safe place in the community for all different kinds of people to come and find and share their love of music,” Hanson said.

This week, Diabolical Records — at 238 S. Edison St., Salt Lake City — is celebrating its 10th anniversary with special deals, including 10% off until Saturday. They’re also holding a free party Saturday night, 7 p.m. to close, at the International Bar, at 342 S. State St., Salt Lake City.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Diabolical Records, on Wednesday, July 12, 2023. The Record Store on Edison Street is celebrating its 10th anniversary.

Slow beginnings to meaningful connections

Adam Tye and Alana Boscan, the husband-and-wife owners of Diabolical, started their record shop in a shipping container at Granary Row, a now-defunct seasonal pop-up festival that used old shipping containers to create small retail stores.

Six months later, they were able to move into their brick-and-mortar location on Edison Street, supported by a small loan and Boscan’s job with the state.

“When we first opened, there was literally just a table with three spray-painted blue cardboard boxes with records in them, this little desk at the front and me in a chair,” Tye said. “I’m sure people thought we were selling drugs.”

It took several years for Diabolical to become successful, but Tye said making mix CDs for friends and recommending new music to people is something he’s enjoyed long before he got paid for it.

“That’s always been the biggest part of it — there’s a bunch of cool music out there, and somebody isn’t going to play it for you, so I’ll play it for you,” he said. “It’s still my favorite thing to do.”

Recently, he said, a customer with his grandson was telling Tye he’s really into progressive rock.

“I was, like, ‘Oh, there’s this really cool band called Mammatus,’ so I played it, and he said, ‘This is great, I’ll take it,’” Tye said. “And he was talking to his grandson, saying, ‘This is why I come to record stores. This is way better than the algorithms on Spotify.’”

Adam Tye checks out a record at Diabolical Records, on Wednesday, July 12, 2023. The Record Store on Edison Street is celebrating its 10th anniversary.

One of Diabolical’s missions is to introduce Salt Lake City to unknown music from independent record labels. The selection in the early years was “super niche,” Tye said, but less so now.

“That is what we do — kind of focus in on any genre and the outskirts and the weirder sides of it,” Tye said. “I think that’s just good to get people to be more and more aware that there’s music other than mainstream and what’s popular.”

Hanson said Diabolical’s selection of music is “so vast and wild.”

“They carry things that you won’t find in other places,” Hanson said, “from local bands to international music ranging in all different genres, to music from bands that have played at the shop, new releases and collectibles.”

The record store continued to grow through the 2010s. When the Graywhale store near the University of Utah closed in 2019 — replaced by a coffee shop that’s now a bar — that was a “big thing,” Hanson said, because more students came over.

Repping the local scene

To the right of the store’s checkout area, there’s a section only for local releases — and it’s updated frequently.

“Salt Lake’s got a cool music scene,” Tye said. “There’s always cool punk and metal stuff going on. There’s always cool, weirdo indie stuff, so it’s, like, ‘Why not take a chance to put a spotlight on it?’”

Bret Meisenbach, drummer for the band Baby Ghosts, said Diabolical has carried all of his band’s releases since the store started, and played host to many events where the band has played.

“Diabolical is the perfect blend of support for local artists, while still curating and inviting outside music into our circles,” he said.

Halee Jean, who plays cello for Salt Lake City band Hoofless, actually met Meisenbach, her husband, at a Diabolical concert both of their bands played at several years back. She said it’s so important how much Diabolical has invested in the community because they’re the “lifeblood of the local music scene.”

“Without them, and [other] establishments that take the risk to bet their time and resources on local artists, our local art community would become severely atrophied,” she said.

Concerts and COVID

Diabolical’s location, on a downtown side street that was fairly vacant in the store’s early days, made for a perfect place to host many late-night concerts with local and national acts.

Tye estimated they held around 1,000 shows in the first seven years of business. They put a halt to the shows when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit in 2020.

Like many small businesses, it was a difficult time not to be open, but they stayed alive by being creative.

One idea was the “Diabolical Drop Bags.” Customers would pay between $50 and $200, with a note listing two to four artists they’ve been into recently. Tye and Boscan would deliver assembled bags based on the customer’s taste, which were worth between 10% and 30% more than what they paid.

When the store reopened in summer 2020, Tye and Boscan discovered an unexpected silver lining to the pandemic.

“So many people bought record players during COVID, because they were stuck at home,” Tye said. “When we reopened, all of a sudden there were all these new customers, so these last couple of years have been really busy.”

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Diabolical Records, on Wednesday, July 12, 2023. The Record Store on Edison Street is celebrating its 10th anniversary.

‘Keep refining’

After the last 10 years, Tye said he feels content with where the store is now, and he aims to just “keep refining” what they have.

“A big thing in Utah is wanting to franchise and chain — I have no desire to do that,” Tye said. “I love our location, we’re really comfortable here.”

Tye said he has made so many friends and acquaintances, and seen others do the same in the store. One of the best things about working at Diabolical to him is something simple: When people come in and want to openly chat about what music they’re into — whether with him or other customers.

“It’s just so fun to have a spot in the community where people feel comfortable and want to discover music,” Tye said.