Between the Twin Cities, Minneapolis typically gets credit for being the better music town. But when Shane Kingsland decided to open a heavy metal record store, there was no question about which side of the river was where he wanted to plant its roots.
"I knew right off the bat that I wanted it to be in St. Paul versus Minneapolis," said Kingsland, who opened the doors on Into the Void Records last Monday. "There's definitely metal going on in Minneapolis, but it seems like St. Paul is more of the stronghold."
Even with the gentrification of St. Paul's Lowertown, where Kingsland's headbangers' boutique landed, the neighborhood's metal ties have held fast. Next to Capitol Guitars and blocks from Station 4 -- a metal-minded bar/venue since its days as the Lab and Ryan's before that -- Into the Void joins a trinity of businesses catering to a distinct demographic. The proximity to other metal-friendly destinations (and his West St. Paul home), made Lowertown an ideal fit, said Kingsland, who hopes to distribute Station 4 tickets at his store.
"We were down there for Napalm Death last week," he said. "I mean, the place was packed. We had 300 potential customers right down the street."
Kingsland's connections stretch farther than a couple of blocks, however. A few years ago, the Irish-American with dual citizenship and his wife planned to move to Dublin to help label-linked friends open the original Into the Void, but balked when the economy buckled. As it came time to pick a name for his St. Paul store, Kingsland inquired about making his a sister shop to its Irish antecedent (even more appropriate given St. Paul's Irish heritage). As part of the arrangement, Kingsland will head up the U.S. branch of Invictus Productions, which has a hand in Dublin's Into the Void and which Kingsland calls Ireland's premier metal label.
Not since Root Cellar Records shuttered in late 2004 has the Twin Cities had a record store dedicated to the drop D. But by working with more than 100 labels to keep a stock of mostly new, hard-to-find vinyl and CDs -- not to mention instituting a no-nu-metal policy -- Kingsland hopes Into the Void will become the Twin Cities' heavy-metal hub. "That's part of the appeal for metal fans," he said. "They'll enjoy having a place that's all their own and I think they'll identify with it a bit more."
So far interest has been strong, the IT-guy-turned-entrepreneur reported, as curious customers were knocking on his door for sneak peeks and others inquired about volunteering before the store even opened (he has a handful of unpaid helpers). Contrary to Into the Void's abyss-fallen moniker, Kingsland is actually filling a gap for an audience that's largely autonomous from the greater Twin Cities music scene.
"Unless you're in the subculture you really have no idea it's going on," he said. "Aside from the occasional crazy guy you see with a Cannibal Corpse shirt and the long hair walking around."
Expect to see a few more "crazy" guys walking around Lowertown.
INTO THE VOID RECORDS
Where: 461 Temperance St., St. Paul. Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mon.-Sat; 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sun. Info: 651-222-4169 or www.intothe voidrecords. com.