Dynamic Duo

With playwright Steven Sater, Duncan Sheik sidesteps his usual breezy pop

He may be doing just that with Phantom Moon, which has earned its fair share of celebratory reviews. It's a down-tempo outing, more concerned with atmospherics than hit songs, maintaining its august mien through its flowing moves from sparse accompaniment to ornate orchestrations. That sort of approach was a luxury Sheik was able to exercise by releasing the album with an artist/composer-identified label like Nonesuch. "To be fair to Atlantic, they never really imposed any restraints on me even when I made my first two records," Sheik says. "They were always supportive of what I was doing. When I first set out to make Phantom Moon, I basically was just going to make it and release it myself. And I went to Atlantic and said, 'You don't want to have to deal with trying to market my little acoustic side project. It'll be a headache for you.' So they were cool. They said, 'We'll entertain that idea.' But first they wanted to play it for [head of Nonesuch Records] Bob Hurwitz to see if Bob responded to it. And luckily for me, he did."

Sheik's collaboration with Sater doesn't end with Phantom Moon, however. After his current tour, Sheik will join up with Sater in New York City for a monthlong workshop preparing their new musical adaptation of German playwright Franz Wedekin's 1891 play, Spring Awakening. But Sheik hasn't completely abandoned his own muse. "I'm also kind of in the middle of making my next record for Atlantic, which is kind of the antidote for Phantom Moon," Sheik says, making light of his current occupation. "It's the other side of the coin. It's going to be much more modern."

Great expectations:  "I'm not one of those people who loves to be  in the spotlight,"  Duncan Sheik says.
Julian Broad
Great expectations: "I'm not one of those people who loves to be in the spotlight," Duncan Sheik says.

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