It's been said that people reflect their names. Chastity Bono, Dweezil
and Calista Flockhart all come to mind as being as colorful as their
signatures. Another names to add to the list is Duncan Sheik. The 28-year-old
South Carolina native, whose 1993 hit "Barely Breathing" spent a
record-breaking 55 weeks on the Billboard's Hot 100, holds a degree in
semiotics, the study of cultural symbols, from Brown University.
But more inportant, he's been a practicing Buddhist for the past nine
something that has shaped how he lives and views the world. Sheik's devout
Buddhist faith permeates his everyday speech and music, and on his sophmore
release, Humming (Atlantic), the singer's ideology is undeniable. This is a
man with something to say, even if his name does incite "all the obvious
things about doughnuts and condoms." Whether you agree with his views is not
the point., evoking thought, change, and motion on a personal and global
level is. And therein lies the singer's self-apponied musical mission.
"I was watching a documentary on Bob Dylan called Don't Look Back,"
recalls. "He was singing songs championing the common man. It was a great
image of this man alone challenging the accepted ideas of hierarchy. I just
thought, 'Why should I be afraid to talk about my important views?' People
are going to say I'm on a soapbox, but I no longer think it's okay to just
hide. You need to engage in some kind of dialogue."
The outspoken singer practices what he presaches. He uses Humming to
in a dialogue with society en masse. The collection makes a distinct
departure from his introspective, self-titled first album and sees Sheik
backed by a full band and focusing his attention outward at the world. Such
songs as "Bite Your Tongue," the set's most uptempo offering and first
single, "Varying Degrees of Con-Artistry" and "Nothing Special" all take aim
at rejection of accountability, society's apathy and out absession with
The singer admits that his ability to make a statement on record doesn't
quite translate to the stage, but he's more than comfortable with that fact.
"When I'm onstage, I'm not a big entertainer, and I'm the first one to admit
that," he says. "For me, I don't want to be an entertainer. I'm not there to
entertain you; I'm there to make music that will hopefully move you. It's
about music and effecting change through it."
The desire to find his own truth came early on for Sheik. At age 19,
singer, who grew up Catholic, set out on a quest for meaning and
spirituality. He began studying Eastern religions and happened upon Buddhism,
which he says filled the void in his life. "I felt a need to engage in some
kind of spiritual practice," Sheik says. "It turned out that I had a relative
(at the time) who had been practicing Buddhism for 30 years. She taught me
how to chant."
In addition, Sheik attributes his good graces and sense of style with
another relative- his mother, "My mom (a jewlery designer) has really great
taste," he says, beaming with pride and affection, "and she was always very
concerned about how I looked. She took me shopping and to the Ralph Lauren
store... she always put me together really well. Now, we have all these
arguements about what I wear because I am not preppy enough for her, I dress
pretty simple now, but hopefully not completely boring!"
Because he is blessed with a gay man's fashion savvy, Sheik was right
during a visit to Barracuda. "It was hilarious! I had a great time!" he
enthusiastically says of his outing to the Chelsea bar, "I did an interview
with Hedda Lettuce, hung out and had some drinks. It was great!"
But it wasn't Sheik's first time in a gay bar.
"Actually, Junior (Vasquez) took one of my songs, 'Reasons For Living,'
made a track for that. So, I 've gone a couple of times to see him spin with
like, 2,000 gay men getting down."
And did he dance? "Oh, yeah!"
The singer, who is currently enjoying a relationship with hos girlfriend,
cites matters of the heart as "definately an inportant, wonderful and huge
part of life." In his eyes, romance is not dead, and its presence, or lack
of, is something that he feels people have some control over.
"We have the ability to decide between which emotions we pay attention
he says. (Romance) is something that can be encouraged. I think there are
certain parts of our culture that really do encourage it. There are great
movies, songs and books that are intenselt romantic."
Being a talented musician, spiritualist and snappt dresser all rolled
one is no easy task. But then again, when you get to wake up every morning,
look into the mirror and say, "Hi, my name is Mr. Sheik," well, that's gotta