Where did the idea for All Things Must Pass come from?
Colin Hanks (Director): We grew up in Sacramento, a couple of blocks from each other and growing up there has always been a specific pride as Tower Records is from my home town. I spent alot of time at Tower Records growing up and it had a deep infinity with music fanatics. Around the time the stores were closing I was in New York City and a friend was visiting from Sacramento, a little older than me she had walked by one of the stores that was closing. We had sitten down for dinner and talked about Tower Records, we had a big conversion about what a bummer that it was going on. During the conversation, she said in passing “God I can’t believe it all started in that little tiny drugstore.” I said “excuse me, what?” I didn’t know about how Russ started selling his records in the 1930’s and I said that journey starts there and ends with 192 stores closing in the world, that’s a pretty incredible journey. No one else was making the documentary so I figured we could.
Sean Stuart (Producer): In fall 2007, you told me about the project and I think within 5 months we were sitting down with Russ and started to talk to him about it. Within 30 minutes of the conversation we had with him, we knew this was an incredible story with lots of life and colour and the context we were going to tell it was going to inspire people.
It’s an amazing concept, what baffled me the most was what Russell Soloman said at the start, that people thought he was crazy for opening a store that only sold records. Especially since with our generation now where it’s a comman place thing.
Colin: That again, there were so many incidents were I wanted to show that context of what the world was like then, this is what it is like now. You wouldn’t have batted an eye, 5 or even 10 years ago about what a record store was but back then they didn’t have real record stores. Music was not sold that way, it was sold in department stores in little sections or at the end racks of a supermarket. The idea of a store that only sold records and was a supermarket sized store, was a pretty radical thing. We wanted to show the contexts of then and now because Russ was there at the very beginning of music retail and he helped sheppard it through all its errors.
Was it easy getting all the interviews for the film? Who was the biggest one that you got?
Colin: The biggest one, just logistically, was Elton John. He was on tour and didn’t neccessarily have a whole lot of time, he was very generous with the time that he gave us just right before a concert in Los Angeles. We were very grateful that he gave us the opportunity, I knew what his connections to Tower Records was and if you are doing a definitive Tower Records documentary then you have to get Elton John in there. That was the hardest one because of scheduling conflicts.
Sean: I think we were pretty delighted in how open the artists that we did approach were in talking about Tower Records because it really meant something to them and it had a special place in their heart for what the company had done and it provided the trajectory of their music careers.
Out of all the interviews you conducted for this documentary, who was the most fascinating?
Colin: They were all unique in their own ways, they all had really interesting stories and they all told us a lot of really great stuff. Obviously Mark’s journey (Mark Vidovich) and experience in Japan was incredible.
Sean: I think from our perspective being able to sit down with these people and actally have them open up was thrilling for us. They all brought something so unique and different to the table and it helped round the story out. It was pretty exciting to have such a pretty diverse group of people within this company itself. All the characters were very distinct in their own ways, which was great.
Another interesting point was the start of Tower Records, when it first started the momentum, the gap between the musician and the record store was almost non existant.
Colin: Yeah, and now you talk to many people in Los Angeles about they heyday era of the sunset strip , it was one of the things that always is. I mean you’d see everybody there, you’d run into 4 or 5 different famous people at a time but that concept was that they were always at the right place at the right time. They opened in San Francisco right before the summer of love happened, right when all that music scene was happening. It was exciting, people were falling in love with all the different kinds of music going on including free form, radio etc. A few years later they opened up in Los Angeles right when the music business started to become more of a stronger thing and was pretty dominant in Los Angeles with the Laurel Canyon scene and The Doors. That’s fate, that’s being in the right place at the right time, with the right attitude and when that happens then really incredible things can happen. They did happen often to Tower Records.
Do you think Tower Records major downfall was that in the beginning they had the edge but as the company grew older they didn’t have the ability to adapt?
Colin: I feel that there are a bunch of different components to it but one the strongest component was their failure to adapt at the end. It was so ironic considering how much they embraced new ideas at the early stages. I think the fact that they stopped and didn’t want to sell used cd’s really hurt them and effectively they didn’t want to close any of their stores. They tried to keep them all open and just consolidate their date which I think was a big mistake too.
Sean: When we were going through our archival stuff and popped in a VHS tape, in an news interview with Russ he mentioned about beaming music into homes and we thought was an incredible moment for our documentary.
Colin: The important thing was that was an incredible moment, especially when Russ says we would be able to adapt when we would be able to beam music in our homes. He doesn’t adapt but at the same time that’s not the sole reason why Tower Records went down. One of the things that we wanted to explore was to give people the proper explanation as to why Tower Records left. The explanation that it was because of the internet was not accurate.
One last question, was is your top 5 records?
Colin: Come on man, come on…that’s not fair, that’s impossible. I can’t do that, I appreciate you at least giving me 5, most people just say what’s your favourite? I can’t do that.
Sean: I always liken to asking a kindergartener “what their favourite activity is?” and it just depends on what moment you catch them because music I think is something that you arevemotionally moving between genres.
I should probably say your current top 5…
(Colin and Sean both laugh.)
Colin: Here I will give you some that I have been listening to, from the top of my head…I’m a big Queens of the Stone Age fan, Benjamin Booker, King Tuff, it’s all basically rock, although Run the Jewels is high on my list too.
Gravitas Ventures has acquired North American rights to All Things Must Pass, the Colin Hanks documentary about the demise of Tower Records. It had its world premiere at SXSW 2015, and now a September theatrical release is planned in the USA. There is no current release dates yet beyond North America.
The 2015 SXSW Film Festival took place from March 13 to March 21 in Austin, Texas.
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