Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Patrick Stolley
Dad Horse Ottn, of the German project The Dad Horse Experience, insists that he is a gospel singer. He might be biting his tongue a bit when he says that, but he's not all wrong. They are gospel songs, even if they contain the occasional profanity, even if we're not sure whether he really is signing about being saved or if he's determined to see the brimstone and the decorations of hell if it actually does kill him. He's a man who will be the first to tell you that he used to be a much different person. He used to court the destruction that he sings about in his tales of gallows humor. These are the stories that one chews on when there's a monster or an overbearing silence in the room. When one's stuck in a place with all of their transgressions laid out on the table, as if at a visitation, the fear and the looniness can set in. When one is faced with exactly what they've done wrong, with all of the reasons why they're no angel displayed before them and a sense of foreboding bubbling in the pot over the fire, there's a fear that comes knocking and knocks until you answer.
For Dad Ottn, the story goes that he was a hellraiser until he saw the light and made right with his maker. There's no telling if this is true or not, but no matter if you've become born again, or just cleansed for the very first time, there's no getting away from the shitty things that you've done in that past. No one's perfectly absolved. It's not possible. Death and bad deeds are the preoccupations of nearly every Dad Horse song, as we're thrown into all sorts of experiences that feel tainted, as if no one's going to come out of them in good shape. They're going to be damaged, it's just a matter of how damaged.
These are the wickedest of abandonment issues - the ones involving death, the ones involving the rottenness exhibited toward others. What's needed in almost every one of the songs on Dad Horse's two hand-made albums is something akin to a soft landing, something that involves forgiveness and a proper burial. The soul needs its restfulness, its peace, even after all that it's been through, even after all that it's done. All doesn't have to be lost, only if you want it to be lost, only if you have a weak heart and shaky hands.