The shadow of a career-defining hit song -- the kind of song that comes up in every interview and finds its way onto every setlist -- can be a difficult thing to step out from under.
So, it's probably a good thing Duncan Sheik doesn't mind the darkness.
Sheik, 43, whose 1996 song "Barely Breathing" appeared on the Billboard charts for 55 weeks, has two projects in the pipeline that could make that 1990s alt-rock classic seem like bubblegum pop by comparison.
One is a solo album he described as "arty, acoustic and dark," and the other is a musical adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis' hyperviolent novel "American Psycho" that will begin rehearsals in May before opening in London later this year.
Sheik's work on the latter is particularly ironic given his initial impression of Ellis' novel about murderous investment banker Patrick Bateman, which was made into a film starring Christian Bale in 2000.
"I didn't like the novel when I read it for the first time in college and ... I was really repulsed by it," said Sheik, who will perform April 6 at the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina Spring Gala on Hilton Head Island. "But when I read it again as an adult, I realize how prescient Bret was, and what his book had to say about capitalism and what it can do to people."
Although an opening date for the "American Psycho" musical has not been set, Sheik said audiences should expect a highly stylized show.
"The band will be comprised almost completely of electronic instruments," Sheik said. "We're toying with the idea of dressing the band in costumes similar to those worn by the girls in the Robert Palmer "Addicted to Love" video. It'll be keytars, drum machines and a lot of synth."
The musical is being produced by the same team who brought "Spring Awakening," an adaptation of the controversial German play of the same name by Frank Wedekind, to Broadway in 2006. That production earned Sheik two Tony Awards and put the musical and theater communities on notice that the Hilton Head Island native might have more to offer than "Barely Breathing."
Sheik spent two years working on the music and lyrics for "American Psycho" while releasing music of his own, including "Covers 80s," an album of covers of songs by Depeche Mode, The Smiths, Tears for Fears and other 1980s icons.
He said the timing of the album's release last year and his work on the musical, which also is set in the '80s, is purely coincidental.
"It was kind of a happy accident," Sheik said. "The 'Covers 80s' record was something that had been in my pipeline for about five years and well before I was approached about doing the musical."
Some of those covers, as well as material from Sheik's older records, will be on the setlist April 6 when he will perform at the arts center.
As will "Barely Breathing," a song Sheik said he took great pleasure in seeing used in a scene from a recent episode of the HBO dramedy "Girls."
"I couldn't have been happier with the way it was used," Sheik said. "I have such mixed emotions about that song so I was very happy to see it used as sort of torture art. It is very reflective of my own feelings about it. It's easier for me to play the song now than it used to be."
Follow reporter Patrick Donohue at twitter.com/IPBG_Patrick.
Duncan Sheik talks about and performs Depeche Mode's "Stripped" from the Web series "The Song That Changed My Life"