Nearly a decade ago, actor Colin Hanks began turning his nostalgia and affection for Tower Records, the defunct music retailer that closed its doors in 2006, into a documentary chronicling the history of the store and its impact on pop culture and the music world.
This film has been seven years in the making. How does it feel to actually be done?
Awesome. It feels really good. It is a very different feeling directing a film and having people see it than acting in it. When I'm an actor it's not really my movie, it's the director's movie. I don't want to give the feeling I'm not invested in those — I am. But with this I am completely invested. We spent seven years of our lives putting this together, and there were times we didn't think it was going to happen, that we'd have to just stop and throw in the towel. So it's been pretty awesome.
Of the big-name interview subjects in the film, who was the toughest to get?
Elton John was the hardest only in so much as it was really about his schedule. He definitely wanted to do it. It was just about finding the time to do it because he's on tour. Dave Grohl was actually the easiest one. I had heard through the grapevine about some stories about when he worked at Tower — stuff like Grohl vandalizing a Michael Jackson poster outside and then taking a Polaroid of it and slipping it under the door for the manager to see.
And Bruce Springsteen?
Bruce is Bruce. He's awesome. He said, "I don't have that many stories about Tower." I said, "Bruce, all I need is one."
Next are you doing Kim's Video? Or Canal Jeans?
We were going to say Radio Shack. (laughs) But a few years ago, everyone was like, "You going to do the Blockbuster doc next?"
But Tower wasn't a chain in the same way Blockbuster was a chain.
No, which is really why we made the doc. Once we really started getting into what made Tower special, that really influenced us into really having to make this documentary. At first it was, "I didn't know they started in a drugstore and ended like this, what a crazy journey." But then as we met Russ and learned about the family dynamic with everybody there, we just realized there's so much here than just "stores opened on these dates." The fact that each Tower was special, each Tower was different, each Tower was like a mom-and-pop record store — people might not necessarily know that, but if they think back on it they'll realize that is true. The buyers in the different stores represented their city.
It's not like we're talking about Sam Goody here.
No, no. No. Exactly.
Do you have any thoughts on the changing record store landscape in New York?
It's definitely a bummer that if you want to go to a really great record store you've kind of got to go to Brooklyn — not that I'm complaining on Brooklyn. I'm not disrespecting it in the slightest. But yeah, that's the hard thing. The city is sort of pricing everybody out. Obviously record stores have enough on their plate as is to add increasing rent and stuff. That's no good. It's sad, it's a bummer. But there's still Other Music or Rough Trade.
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