There is one particular record store in Oslo, Norway, that yours truly is utterly fond of visiting; I am of course referring to Neseblod Records, which is located in Schweigaards Gate 56. Those of you who are into Norwegian black metal music and lore will of course know that this is the exact same location as Mayhem founding member Euronymous’ legendary old haunt named Helvete used to be and where many prominent members of the early underground movement hung out back in the early 90s. The current owner of the legendary premises, Kenneth, is not only hugely knowledgeable when it comes to music from all corners of the harsh underground but also incredibly cool to talk to in general. The thing is that Neseblod is much more than a store – it is a black metal museum and treasure trove filled with from top to bottom with memorabilia, souvenirs, and rare items related to the early Norwegian black metal movement. Words defy description – one simply must see it all with one’s own eyes to believe it. Below is our Q&A with Kenneth.
Greetings Kenneth, how are you? What initially spurred you on to the idea of opening a metal record shop? Was it a dream of yours that you had been harboring for a long time or did it come about by chance?
K: I like to be my own boss. Since I was a teenager, I have worked in several record shops. This is where I have picked up my skills and where I can apply them ha-ha! Maybe it has to do with my music fascination and huge interest in metal and subcultures? It felt right anyways.
How did it come about that you were able to move to the legendary Helvete location in Schweigaards Gate 56?
K: That was actually rather easy and obvious. Oslo is quite small, and the landlords knew that I had a shop with some stuff that was close to what Euronymous had at his Helvete shop. After a short e-mail correspondence, they wished me and my stuff welcome. Loads of stuff got “back to basics” again. And the truth is that they needed someone to manage all the people from near and far who wanted to see the basement (ed.note: the basement where members of Mayhem, Darkthrone, Burzum, Emperor, and the likes used to hang out and where iconic photos for record sleeves and promotional purposes and whatnot were taken).
I recall walking by the place in the past when there were offices or something along those lines there, and somehow that just never felt right, so I am beyond pleased that your awesome shop is now there. It seems so fitting, you know?
K: Oh yes, I know. The place needed its metal. And thank you, I’m glad you think that too.
You must have been thrilled when you were able to take over the old haunts of the early Norwegian black metal scene?
K: After some crazy weeks involving packing and moving from the old place to Schweigaards Gate, I was thrilled. But a short time after we had a huge flood, and unfortunately, I lost thousands of items. At that time, I hated the place. I can also see other backsides to being in this specific place; there are people asking and digging about church burning, Mayhem-related gossip, murder etc. for hours, and without buying anything. Fair enough, the doors are open, but stop stealing my time! I’m not so good at pretending, so sometimes poor customers have to deal with a rather moody me. We got a review once: “rude and grumpy staff”. I think that fits well on a cloudy day ha-ha.
It is far from perfect, but the address is important for sure, and now after all these years I think it’s the best place in the world for the shop.
When visiting the shop, one is overwhelmed by all the memorabilia and all the rarities and so on, and in many ways, it feels as if one is entering a Norwegian black metal museum. Do you ever have one of those moments where you look around at all the stuff that you have accumulated over the years and go “Wow, there is a lot of historically important and interesting stuff in here!”?
K: From early on I was aware of the importance and uniqueness of Norwegian black metal – as a music genre but also as a culture. When friends from some of the first (and most important) bands came to the shop and sold their records and other stuff, I just couldn’t let it go. I had to keep it and to share it with people if that makes sense?
Now a lot of the cool and rare stuff is placed around inside the shop so that people can be nostalgic, read, look around, take pictures, memorize, and have a great experience. I’m not a collector who wants to pervert myself with an impressive collection; this is the Neseblod collection, so it’s not all so Freudian after all ha-ha!
Is preserving the legacy of early Norwegian black metal and the entire history surrounding that important to you on a personal level?
K: As I mentioned before, some is, and some is not. After doing this for so many years, I have turned it into a path of mine. But hey, if I did it for the money, I would rather stand behind the register on a random gas station or a regular grocery shop.
In terms of running your own shop, do you still feel as passionate about it all today as you did back when you started out? Do you still get a kick out of working at the store, talking to customers, discussing music, and whatnot?
K: I have every type of customer. And it’s like everywhere else; some are cool, and some are not. I like talking to cool customers! Sure, I get that kick from time to time, and I still feel passionate but not necessarily about the same stuff as I did 17 years ago when I started doing this.
I have heard stories of hardcore metal maniacs in Germany, Spain, Portugal and the likes who have boarded a plane for Oslo early in the morning to specifically visit the Neseblod/Helvete store and buy rare records and memorabilia and whatnot and then fly home in the evening. Is that actually true? Do people do that?
K: I think it’s unrecorded numbers. Things are so fucked up with respect to expensive mail, shipping, fees etc., so for some it’s cheaper to do that, but it’s obviously not good for the environment! I am also to blame as my web-skills are quite bad. And people probably know that if they visit the shop, they can be surprised of what I have in stock. They can easily pick and pay for rarities that are very difficult to find anywhere else. And the “what you see is what you get”-internet can be a cheating bastard.
One thing that I think deserves to be mentioned is that Neseblod Records is so much more than a black metal museum and record store – you have piles and piles of CDs, LPs, and cassette tapes by punk bands, electronic outfits, weird synthesizer music, neck-breaking thrash metal, and so on and so forth. I often feel that the huge diversity of music that one will find in your store is overlooked or neglected by fans and music freaks in general, but maybe that is just me?
K: I’m so happy you mentioned this. As I said, I have an enormous fascination of subcultures and music that only appeals to the few. I don’t want the shop to be Helvete Part II. Helvete is a great part of music history, but it is history. Neseblod embraces so much more than black metal, and it’s interesting to note just how many of the members in various black metal bands who were also listening to noise and punk.
Just out of curiosity, what are you currently listening to at home and what bands and artists do you typically immerse yourself in if you just need to unwind for an hour or two and relax?
K: At home? I have three kids and a wife with music preferences. After a day at work surrounded by music, I can admit that silence is chill.
But to be honest, this is a difficult question because it constantly changes. One day I can listen to the best band in the world and the next day that’s another band.
Thanks once again for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to RAMzine about your legendary shop and musical treasure trove 😊
K: I really appreciate this zine – thanks for having me!