Updated: Aug 15, 2020
BREAKING DOWN 'SAKI ~ THEODOSIUS': by Robin Steen
(linked to Spotify, but feel free to use your streaming platform of choice)
The following is The following is a one of four write-ups on the four songs (‘Fast Lane’, ‘Hopscotch’, ‘Fresh Escaped’, and ‘Tear this Temple Down) former members of the band Omnibol (for which, Saki was the guitarist and contributing composer) collaborated on for Saki’s posthumous album, ‘Theodosius.’ Saki died of a fentanyl overdose in the fall of 2016.
"I knew it had to be about Saki...his accelerating flight from this world, and his final racing exit."
This one was a toughie: Saki's tune, which he had already entitled "Fast Lane," with a super-catchy vocal melody written by producer Jeff Van Dyck, that I was invited to write lyrics for and then, later, to sing. I came up with the words while staying with my in-laws on Quadra Island two winters ago, walking through the cold and windy woods. I knew it had to be about Saki's last days, of his accelerating flight from this world, and his final, racing exit.
The lyrics weave together the ‘driving’ theme, connoted in Sak’s title for the song, with a theme of flight interlaced within austere images of winter, solitariness and night. Introduced into this are two motifs: an owl and anaesthesia. The owl is at once the one from Kwakwaka'wakw mythology (Quadra is Kwakwaka'wakw territory) whose call of one's name is a harbinger of imminent death, and the owl of Athena, Hellenic symbol of wisdom and insight (both of which Saki possessed). The anaesthesia is the loss of the senses—sight, touch, and hearing: drugs. Saki must have somehow presaged, seen exactly how, with his worsening drug use, he was "calling his own name" again and again, calling himself dreadfully and dreamily towards black, numb silence—towards semi-deliberate death.
In terms of my singing it, well... that was difficult. I hadn't sung for years, and it proved a great challenge for me to hit the notes and imbue the words with sufficient energy. But I gave it my best shot, and Steve Royea, who recorded me, as well as nurtured my efforts for many weeks in advance made it a happy experience with his kindness, professionalism and patience. It was a trip recording at Steve's place, with Jeff's face and voice on the laptop, live with us from Australia via FaceTime, giving production feedback and direction. It's so cool that this type of remote collaboration is now possible. We could only have dreamed of it back in the day. Much later, Jason Michas' careful and edifying backup vocal harmonies gave the song so much more strength, depth and colour.
In the wind, a winter song calls my name, the vowels long. I know the owl's never wrong.
In my mind: a cold clear light. In my heart, I long to fly fast and free beyond the sky.
But now, I can't see the road before me (at all). My fingers numb upon the wheel, Cannot hear the tires squeal in the fast lane.
Slow-motion lightning, butterfly kissed the bird emerges from the mist. the owl is silent on the wing, I can hear the angels sing over the fast lane.
Passing in and out of consciousness- the blindness merges with the bliss. I hear the owl call my name, a feather falling through the rain to the fast lane.
In the night, the hours are long. All alone and far away, I hone the tune that I must play.
In the dream, the way is clear: ride the wind into the dark and feed my spirit to the spark.
Lyrics by Robin Steen