Bluesbreakers: The Picturebooks

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“To be honest, we really hate blues, at least what became of it,” says Fynn Claus Grabke, the singer and guitarist of raucous German garage blues duo The Picturebooks. “In Germany there are people who become professional blues musicians and it’s like a contest and they win because they managed to make the blues solo perfect. We figure blues is the opposite. It has nothing to do with perfect, it’s pain.”

Fynn and drummer Philipp Mirtschink bonded over their love of skateboards and motorcycles before forming The Picturebooks. Music was in the blood for Grabke, whose father, Claus, was a former pro skateboarder who became a hardcore punk singer, fronting The Alternative Allstars and Thumb. “I basically grew up in a tour bus,” he says. “I could never think of doing anything else. I was always saying at school, ‘What the fuck am I doing here? I already know what I’m going to do. Can I just leave?’”/o:p

After starting life as a trio – “We had a bassist. He kind of Yoko Ono’d us,” says Grabke – The Picturebooks decided they preferred being a duo and recorded their scorching album Imaginary Horse in the garage where they fix up choppers.

“We were rehearsing in that room, loved the sound, and said, ‘Why does it sound so different when we record in the real studio next door?’ We realised we were doing all the same stuff every band does, so we figured if we do it that way it will always sound like something already out there. We said, ‘Let’s move everything back to where we wrote and practised all these songs and record them with two mics 12 feet away from us.’ We played everything live to catch the natural reverb this room has. It’s a garage. It’s not like the Foo Fighters. They made a big deal out of recording in Dave Grohl’s garage, but it sounds like a professional studio. We didn’t want that. We wanted people to hear it and feel it and smell the gasoline.”

Proving Grabke’s maxim about blues and pain, when The Picturebooks perform they don’t play songs so much as tear them apart, sometimes tearing themselves apart too. On tour opening for The Answer, Philipp Mirtschink cut his hand open.

“Half an hour before the show in London, Philipp said, ‘Let’s go to the supermarket next door, I need to get something for my finger.’ I thought he would get something to tape it. He bought superglue. This wound wouldn’t stop bleeding so he just put superglue in it.”

Unfortunately, Philipp’s improvised first aid didn’t last through the set. “While he was playing, the blood was spraying the stage and all over the first row. There was this dude throwing up, probably he can’t stand blood, it was crazy,” says Grabke. “That’s our philosophy, we always give 110 per cent, no matter what.”/o:p

Imaginary Horse is out now on Riding Easy Records./o:p

INFLUENCES

“Philipp and I come from hardcore, listening to Minor Threat and Refused. When we say we listen to blues, we listen to very early stuff, somebody recorded some dude and nobody knows his name. We have vinyl, some gospel, early stuff that eventually became rock’n’roll music.”/o:p