Bite Your Tongue

                             Duncan Sheik isn't just the
                             over-educated, sensitive guy we took
                             him for

                             "There's a whole wide world of mystery and
                             intrigue out there. I felt like, if I wrote
                             another love song, I was going to go

                             So says Duncan Sheik, spokesman for the
                             heart, articulator for the loved and the lost,
                             guest star on Beverly Hills, 90210. It's not that he's given up on
                             the art of the love song on his new album, Humming, it's just that
                             he's taken it down to another level, one that lies beneath the
                             surface rather than on the sleeve. "It's very hard to write a love
                             song without being cliche," Sheik confesses. "And I felt that [with
                             Duncan Sheik] I had a lot of important things to say, a lot of
                             weighty ideas, but I didn't want to get on my soapbox with my
                             first album."

                             While many sophomore albums themselves fall victim to cliche,
                             compromising raw originality for over-production or precious
                             orchestration, Humming moves in the opposite direction. Though
                             Sheik hasn't completely shirked the predilection for lush
                             instrumentation that characterized his debut, he's comfortable
                             this time around balancing the London Session Orchestra with
                             alternative guitar tuning and social commentary. In other words,
                             he's no longer simply the poster-boy for the sensitive Nineties

                             "I always tried not to be dogmatic," explains Sheik of his
                             maturing songcraft. "But then I looked at Bob Dylan, and I
                             thought, he was putting out very important messages." Not that
                             Sheik's vying for Dylan's throne, but he took Dylan's early work as
                             a nod, allowing him to say what he'd always felt. "'Varying
                             Degrees of Con-Artistry' is a song about the tragedy that
                             continually occurs in the world, and it is a bit angry," says the
                             ten-year veteran of Buddhism. "But I think my attitude is more
                             sadness than anger."

                             Raised on Hilton Head Island, S. C., and the recipient of a
                             much-touted Semiotics degree from Brown University, Sheik cut
                             his musical teeth playing lead guitar in a college band with
                             fellow student Lisa Loeb. Branching off a year later, he
                             fine-tuned his delicate vocals, intricate guitar and piano work,
                             and headed West after graduation. Soon after, he was signing
                             on the dotted line and heading off to France to make his solid
                             and articulate debut. These days, Sheik explores his world-weary
                             sadness in his Tribeca loft in New York City, where the
                             foundation of Humming was written. "I was living in Los Angeles,
                             and I went to France to record the last album," says Sheik of his
                             nomadic nature. "And when I came back, I flew through New
                             York. I just never took the next flight. I stopped here."

                             To build upon the skeletal structure of Humming, Sheik picked up
                             again and headed to El Cortijo, Spain. There, Duncan holed up
                             with producer Rupert Hine and arranger Simon Hale for two
                             months, and spent time with records by Steve Reich, Mark Hollis
                             and Belle & Sebastian. Overlooking the Mediterranean, he
                             busied himself creating eleven lush, gorgeous meditations on
                             sadness, inspiration, bitterness and the death of Jeff Buckley.

                             "Grace was the record of the Nineties. Jeff definitely had the
                             voice of the Nineties," says Sheik of the hero he never got the
                             chance to meet. "That song ["A Body Goes Down"] is sort of a
                             funeral procession song." Asked what he makes of such a young
                             person losing his life, Sheik waxes Buddhist. "I believe that
                             everything in life happens in a strict cause-and-effect method,
                             and while both happen concurrently, the weight doesn't hit

                             Given that he accepts life's unfortunate happenstance as fate
                             and karma, it's not surprising that Sheik is comfortable with his
                             place at the forefront of the sensitive singer-songwriter "trend." "If
                             they want to make a trend out of it, that's fine," Sheik admits.
                             "But I'm not going to change who I am just to make myself more

                             HEIDI SHERMAN