HHBTM Records Label Profile at Innocent Words

Mike Turner never actually intended to start his own record label; it just sort of happened. Years later, he never intended to start his own music publicity firm. That just sort of happened as well. But 16 years after the first Happy Happy Birthday to Me Records (HHBTM) release, he has one of the Southeast’s most impressively eclectic indie labels going. Similarly, two years after founding Crashing Through Publicity, Turner is representing an equally impressive stable of bands.

Don’t ask how he found the time, but Athens, Georgia-based Turner took time recently to talk about starting his label on a whim, founding the PR firm out of necessity, and offered up a peek at the rest of the albums he’s putting out this year.

Innocent Words: What made you decide to start your own label?

Mike Turner: The label was never actually meant to be a thing. I was getting ready to put an end to this ’zine I was doing at the time, The Bee’s Knees. I had been doing the zine for four years, and there was gonna be a CD comp that came with it. I started putting together the comp and had zero plans of it being a label. It was just a comp to come with the ’zine. I had saved up money for a potter’s wheel and a kiln and I really just wanted to do that, but I decided to use that money to print a lot more copies of the ’zine and let it go out with a bang by having a CD that came with it.
In 1999 I guess doing a CD was a big deal to me in my mind or something. The money from the comp and ’zine would just replace the money I had set aside for the wheel and the kiln, but that never really happened. I had so much fun putting together the comp and hand-making all the sleeves, and the process of making at the time what felt like a large scale art project kinda just took over. The first CD comp, ‘Happy Happy Birthday to Me Vol 1,’ came in a sewn fabric sleeve and had a foldout mini poster and a numbered and stamped insert. I even carved the stamp. This was a full-on all handmade
sleeve project.

The next thing I knew, the comp and ’zine had sold out in pre-order, and I found myself wanting to do a 7-inch singles club with all handmade sleeves. I put together a cassette comp as well within the first year and handmade all those sleeves too. With the comps and the singles I had handmade over 8,000 sleeves. Not sure how really, but I even pushed it to make each of the singles sleeves using a different process. There wasn’t any plan, to be honest, to start a label; it kinda just grew out of an art project and a fixation on large scale production work.

Click through for the rest of the interview!