How Much Do You Miss Tower Records? Colin Hanks Tells Us

Tower Records
Photo: Courtesy

For the past seven years, Colin Hanks (Fargo actor and eldest son of Tom), has been slowly but surely refining his passion project: a documentary about the rise and fall of the iconic music chain Tower Records. Titled All Things Must Pass (a nod to the solemn message displayed on one of its store marquees after it shuttered), it tells a thoroughly researched, deeply engaging story of founder Russ Solomon and his band of pranksters who, for better or worse, made a lasting impact on the record industry. "A lot of people know about [Tower Records], but they don't really know about it," Hanks tells InStyle. In advance of the movie's release this Friday, we caught up with the director to reminisce about all things Tower.

You're from Sacramento, where Tower was based. Is that what prompted your interest?
There was a bit of civic pride—we don't have a lot of stuff that comes from Sacramento! But I also spent a lot of hours killing time there as a bored teenager. Once I found out how Russ started to sell records [out of his father's drugstore], I just figured that it was a pretty incredible journey.

How did you learn about the origin story?
When the stores were about to close in December 2006, I went out to dinner with an old family friend from Sacramento, and we talked about how much of a bummer it was that they were closing. At the end of a very brief conversation, she said in passing, "I can't believe it all started in that little drugstore." That was the lightbulb moment.

This was your first foray into directing. What were some of the challenges you encountered in the process?
Discovering that no one is going to care more about your movie than you are, and you've got to fight to make it the way that you think it should be. When we first went out to try and secure financing, people politely laughed us out of the room and said that no one's going to care about a company that went bankrupt when Lehman Brothers and other more "important" companies are shutting their doors. But I knew there was something there, and I didn't want to give up on it.

Tower Records

Russ Solomon (right, with white beard), pictured with his staff at Tower Records in Sacramento, Calif.

What did you hope to bring to light about the company's demise?
In addition to telling the story of Russ and his group of friends, I wanted to pop the bubble of this myth that it was Napster that killed Tower Records. It definitely had a part in its demise, but it wasn't solely responsible for the closing of all 192 stores around the world.

Do you remember the first record you ever bought there?
I bought a bunch of cassettes as a kid—Beastie Boys, Run DMC, Public Enemy—but I do specifically remember getting the Red Hot Chili Peppers' Blood Sugar Sex Magik CD at Tower Records, and that was arguably the most important record for my young burgeoning music fandom, and the first one that I really became truly obsessed with. My experience buying it was probably one of the reasons why I felt compelled to make this movie.

Your father's movie, Bridge of Spies, is coming out on the same day. Has there been some interfamilial discussion?
We've been laughing about it. I'm really hoping that my per-screen average is much higher than his, because I only have two theaters and he has upwards of 2,000.

Watch the trailer for All Things Must Pass below, and catch the movie in theaters Oct. 16.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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