John Kim Faye and his band, Ike, had just performed in front of 10,000 screaming fans as the opening act for Bon Jovi at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in February 2006.
It seemed like the ultimate rock star dream and a payoff after years of grueling work as a musician. The band had been hand-selected by Philly radio station WMMR to play the opening gig. At the venue, they were treated to surf-and-turf backstage and roadies who carried their equipment.
From that high came a swift downturn. Bon Jovi never watched Ike perform. In fact, they were still five minutes from the venue, meaning Faye’s band needed to vacate the green room and join the regular ticketholders in the crowd.
“And after the show, I just got in the van and went home, and I was like, Well, that happened,” Faye recalls. “It literally felt like an ice bath going from one scenario to the other.”
It’s just one among many yarns in Faye’s new autobiography, The Yin and the Yang of It All, which reveals the fragile, fickle underbelly of rock semi-stardom.
Faye, who spent his youth in Newark, has been a longtime fixture at Delaware and Philly clubs in bands like Ike, Beat Clinic and the John Faye Power Trip, and as a solo artist. His biggest splash came with The Caulfields, who signed to A&M Records in the post-grunge-era mid-1990s. Their 1995 single “Devil’s Diary” became a hit on MTV and alt-rock radio.
But just two weeks before the release of their second album, L, in 1997, A&M fired the executive representing the band. Six months later, The Caulfields were dropped by their label and disbanded.
It could’ve been the death knell for Faye’s music career, but instead he pushed ahead.
“After that, I never really looked back,” he says. “I went on what I’ll proudly call a ‘creative tear.’”
Faye credits his late mother, Jung Sook Kim, with giving him the shove he needed to continue life as a professional musician.
The Irish/Korean Faye was one of exceedingly few Asian American frontmen making popular rock music during most of his career. The book’s themes of race, family, identity and loss pack an emotional punch, especially when paired with Faye’s purposeful and witty prose.
The book traces his life from childhood in mostly white neighborhoods of suburban Newark through his time as the drummer for Beat Clinic, a band that performed around the University of Delaware in the ’90s, through his ascent with The Caulfields and beyond.
For every piece of glitz or glamour—a national tour, festival gigs—the book revels in the relative lowlights that accompany life for what Faye calls “the musical middle class.”
“You get a story about me [having a bathroom accident] before a radio festival in Milwaukee,” Faye says with a laugh. “You’ll get The Caulfields encountering David Duke in the nightclub in Slidell, Louisiana.”
The anti–rock star moments “are just more interesting,” he says. “They’re funny.”
“If my book in any way can just peel back the curtain and show people, this is how it actually is for close to 99% of musicians who work in the world…those are the stories that I really relish telling.”