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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

These Go to 11: interviewing Happy Happy Birthday To Me Records & Crashing Through Publicity

Our first interview of the year is a very special one, thanks to the incredible curriculum of our guest, a real renaissance man, an incomparable music activist (record store manager, record label owner, and concert promoter). Here are the answers to our questionnaire of Mike Turner, the man behind the label Happy Happy Birthday To Me Records (HBBTM), Crashing Through Publicity, the Athens Popfest and many more. These Go to 11 (but it could possibly go to 40 with him)! 

Mike Turner, HHBTM Records, Crashing Through Publicity, Athens Popfest...
Mike Turner, your go-to-music guy
Mike Turner breathes music 24 hours a day 365 days a year. After a brief stint studying graphic design, Mike returned home and started publishing The Bee’s Knees, an influential magazine than ran from 1995-2005 and featured some of the earliest interviews with Suede, Olivia Tremor Control or the Shins, among others. In its 4th anniversary, Mike released a compilation CD that sold so well he decided to take all the money and started a label called Happy Happy Birthday To Me records (HHBTM). With a label to promote, Mike formed Yum Yum publicity, a small firm that worked some of the earliest records for Dirty Projectors, Yacht, Bearsuit, and many more. Since most of his friends & his label’s roster were already living there, Mike decided to move to Athens, Georgia, in 2004. To celebrate, he threw a four-day party that soon became an annual event: the Athens Popfest, that has featured artists like Daniel Johnston, Throwing Muses, Rory Erickson, Mission of Burma and Of Montreal, just to name a few. He also became manager at Wuxtry Records, one of the top indie record stores in the country & the place where R.E.M.'s legend began. As the day only has 24 hours, he quit working on The Bee’s Knees and the publicity firm to focus on HHBTM, experiencing great success for a label with such a DIY scope. But friends in bands and labels kept asking for his help and advice, so Mike decided to get back into the publicity business with Crashing Through. As you can see, a MAN OF MUSIC. Here we go!

Christmas presents, a risky affair... 
1. First record that you bought (be honest)
Well the first record I ever had was actually a cassette and it was a Christmas gift of Duran Duran's 'Rio', but I also received Michael Jackson's 'Thriller' on cassette as well. The first cassette I ever bought might have been Weird Al Yankovic's '3-D' or Devo's 'Freedom of Choice'. I really don't remember which one I got first.

2. First and last concert you have attended (be honest too!)
This is a bit more tricky of a question cause I went to local high school band shows through high school which would be held at practice spaces, abandoned buildings, rented out VFW Halls, etc. The first like, real concert where I had to buy tickets and so on would have been a triple bill of Nirvana, The Breeders, and Come. The most recent show I went to see was one I put on which was Marshmallow Coast, Nightblonde, and Mind Brains.

The Throwing Muses in high school 
3. Guilty pleasure (song/band you shouldn’t like but you do, yes, it’s the embarrassing question)
Not sure I really have one. I used to be super snobby about music, but years of working in a record store did the opposite to me to where now it's all just whatever. I've always had a soft spot of pre-gangster era hip-hop, and to be honest I don't see why everyone is so anti-Phil Collins. I guess if anything I could probably say Vampire Weekend would be a guilty pleasure.

4. Most precious music item you own (collector mode on)
I have a bunch of records, but I'm not really a collector. I guess I have to say the item it took me the longest to find maybe which would be the self-released 7" by Throwing Muses. Took me over 10 years to find a copy, so I guess that would be it.

5. Favorite lyrics (not yours)
Lately, I love these two lines by this band Ought which just makes me laugh:
'Tell me what the weather's like/so I don't have to go outside' and 'Wave your hands in the air/that is the universal sign for not having a care.'

The Godmother of Goth
6.Musician/s you would like to meet (should be alive, for obvious reasons, but you can choose a dead one too)
I never like meeting heroes really. It can always just go wrong so easily. I guess it depends. I've met most of the bands that mean the most to me and 90% of them have been great, but that other 10%... well, I don't go out of my way, is all. I guess I should find an answer though, so let's just say Siouxsie Sioux or Colin Newman.

7. Favorite artwork album (not yours)
Almost anything by V23 or 23 Envelope. Pretty much everything by the Pixies.

'Rat Girl', the muse tells her story
8. Books or movies? Depending on your answer recommend us one (trick: you can choose both) 
Book is easy 'Rat Girl' by Kristin Hersh which might be the best music book ever.
Movie isn't as easy, maybe 'Bling Ring', 'Spring Breakers', anything by Todd Solondz.

9. Release (of yours) you are most proud of
Each record means something different. I really can't choose the one that means the most. I think I might be the most proud of the leap between albums of Tunabunny, yet I'm proud of Eureka California from how they have grown as a touring act and professional band, and the one I am most blown away by is getting to release a record with Throwing Muses, which is one of my favorite bands of all time. Honestly, each record and band means something different, so almost each record I am proud of or have been proud of for different reasons.

10. What does it mean indie for you? (yes, the “serious question”)
I think it means doing things on your own terms without help or money from major labels or the system that supports them.

11. Where do you see yourself in 10 years? 
Probably looking at a catalog of 300+ releases, still doing the label, and still doing publicity. I might start another label imprint with a focus on packaging or maybe a reissue imprint, but pretty much I'll be 50 and still going to shows, putting on shows, putting out records, designing records, and doing press. I'd like to maybe get more involved doing videos, or possibly sitting in on a recording and producing a record, but for the most part I'll still be doing the same thing more than likely. I'm a lifer.

                                                                                                                                  Zillion thanks Mike!

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