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It Came from Aquarius Records

The third documentary in Kenneth Thomas’ trilogy about indie music culture, IT CAME FROM AQUARIUS RECORDS explores the adventurous independent record shop that helped shape the tastes of San Francisco area residents and beyond for nearly a half a century.
Aquarius Records closed in 2016 after establishing itself as one of the greatest champions of underground and experimental sounds, turning the world onto sound and music of limitless varieties, some of which would soon explode in popularity out of the independent music scenes.
Filmed over six years and featuring over 50 interviews, the film takes an in-depth look at the heartbreak of shuttering the beloved store amid the city’s wave of gentrification and traces its long history of influencing music and culture in the city.

Interviewees include Matt Groening (The Simpsons), Wayne Coyne (Flaming Lips), Howie Klein (Former President of Reprise Records), Bruce Ackley, John Darnielle (The Mountain Goats), Ty Segall, Liz Harris (Grouper), and every owner from the store's 47 year history.

Winner of 2022 New York Independent Cinema Award (Best US Documentary)
Winner of 2023 California Music Video and Film Award (Breakout Storyteller)
Winner of 2023 International Documentary Film Festival Award (Best Music Documentary)
Official Selection of San Francisco Doc Fest, Tucson Film and Music Festival, Berlin International Art Film Festival

  • Kenneth Thomas
    Director
    Blood, Sweat + Vinyl: DIY in the 21st Century; Here Is a Gift for You: An Old Man Gloom Documentary; Music Video premiere on Headbangers's Ball for Pelican, "Lost in the Headlights"
  • Kenneth Thomas
    Writer
    Blood, Sweat + Vinyl: DIY in the 21st Century; Here Is a Gift for You: An Old Man Gloom Documentary; Music Video premiere on Headbangers's Ball for Pelican, "Lost in the Headlights"
  • Kenneth Thomas
    Producer
    Blood, Sweat + Vinyl: DIY in the 21st Century; Here Is a Gift for You: An Old Man Gloom Documentary; Music Video premiere on Headbangers's Ball for Pelican, "Lost in the Headlights"
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Feature
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 50 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    April 23, 2022
  • Production Budget:
    20,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    Canada, Finland, Iceland, Norway, United States
  • Language:
    English
  • Shooting Format:
    Digital
  • Aspect Ratio:
    16:9
  • Film Color:
    Color
  • First-time Filmmaker:
    No
  • Student Project:
    No
  • SF Doc Fest
    San Francisco
    United States
    June 3, 2022
    North American Premiere
    Official Selection
  • Santa Barbara Film Awards
    Santa Barbara, CA
    Official Selection
  • Impact Docs Awards
    La Jolla, CA
    Award of Merit
  • New York Independent Cinema Awards
    NYC, NY
    NY Premiere
    Official Selection
  • Boston Independent Film Awards
    Boston
    United States
    Boston Premiere
    Official Selection
  • Berlin International Art Film Festival
    Berlin
    Germany
    German Premiere
    Official Selection
Director Biography - Kenneth Thomas

Kenneth Thomas is a teacher and filmmaker from Arcata, the far reaches of Northern California. From the age of 22, he has consistently worked in some aspect of news or documentary production. After graduating with his Bachelor’s Degree in 16mm Film Production from Boston University, he moved back to his hometown, to work at the local CBS television station, where he quickly became the Technical Director, and then the Live News Director for both the 6pm and 11pm newscasts. Before he left, he also served as their News Videographer, documenting stories on the front lines, like Earth First’s controversial fight to save the old-growth redwood forests.

He then spent 4 years in Seattle, helping to start a dot-com that specialized in shooting multi-camera productions of rock concerts for the internet. Kenneth co-produced, shot, and directed about a dozen concerts for the company, for bands like Queens of the Stone Age, The Dandy Warhols and King Crimson. This was a few years before YouTube, so the company was a little ahead of its time — but, before they went out of business, Kenneth purchased a slew of equipment from the company to bring to Los Angeles.

The next ten years were spent as a freelance camera operator and editor, shooting red carpet events for Marvel, co-directing and shooting a cross-country car race in Mexico, shooting and editing for Shout Factory on their television nostalgia DVD’s, and becoming part of Yanni’s camera crew for his PBS specials in Florida, Mexico and Egypt.

After receiving his MFA in Film at San Francisco Art Institute, Kenneth completed his 5-year long film project, a feature-length music documentary called Blood, Sweat + Vinyl: DIY in the 21st Century. Featuring over a dozen multi-camera live concert shoots and 20 interviews about independent heavy metal music culture, the film has screened in over two dozen film and music festivals on every continent (except Antarctica) and is currently being independently distributed. This documentary led to him directing two music videos for bands in the film, one of which aired on MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball. He recently completed his third feature-length music documentary, which is about the rise and fall of the fiercely independent, SF-based record store, Aquarius Records.

Kenneth currently teaches Live TV Production and Audio Production at Los Angeles City College, with occasional freelance stints as a key camera operator for live multi-camera streams of LA Philharmonic concerts, directing live multi-camera streams of heavy metal concerts in Boston and Los Angeles, and studying to become a Certified Cicerone — which is a fancy way of saying “beer expert.”

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Director Statement

"If it wasn't filmed, it didn't happen." Working for a news station as a videographer and director instilled that idea early in my career. My documentaries are about underground music and the culture that surrounds it. The musicians' independent spirit and admirable resilience to stay steadfast in their beliefs is so infectious, it influenced my filmmaking. In the end, a lot of these bands and underground cultures fade away - so I'm here for the documentation, to prove to the world that it happened.