Acoustic Art-rocker Duncan Sheik's self-titled debut album (Atlantic) and
single, "Barely Breathing," have begun to seriously ascend the pop charts,
much to his astonishment and satisfaction. The young South Carolinian has
accomplished what his own heros- British ambiant-pop idols like Blue Nile and
David Sylvian- have never been able to do in this country:  have a hit record.

Sheik was only 12 years old when he got hooked on English progressive rock,
particularly King Crimson's Robert Fripp; he also listened to seriously edgy
jazz-rock players like Bill Frisell. But for all his genuine interest in the
electric guitar, Sheik committed himself to the acoustic when he discovered
the melancholy music of British folk-jazzer Nick Drake, who died of an
anti-depressant overdose in 1974.

"Drake's alternate guitar tunings, beautiful string arrangements,
super-introspective sensibility, super-intimate vocal production and breathy
singing- it all added up for me," says Sheik of his musical antecendent,
adding that his own music has "a melancholy nature, but it's edged with hope."

Sheik has always been interested in a career as a film composer, which helps
explain his emphasis on sound rather than lyrics in his songs. "My whole
approach to writing songs comes almost entirely from the music side- the
chord progressions, the harmonies, the way the melody relates to those
harmonies and rhythms. So when I'm writing lyrics, it's almost from the
perspective of how does the word sound here, instead of what does it mean

On his album, Sheik used a Gibson Gospel, an acoustic which was reissued by
the company's Montana division from 1994 through 1996. On stage, he generally
uses two Alvarez acoustics- a thin cutaway with f-holes, and on Alvarez Bob
Weir Virtuoso- which he plays through a Boss EQ, Boss reverb and, for solos,
a Boss compressor. "They're great for achieving volume without screaming," he