Grasping for Hope
in the Darkness
Mom Music Spotlight
Hope in the Darkness
to a sample from
Hope in the Darkness
Catholic Rock with a Purpose
Catholic Music Spotlight Interview with David Wang, Critical Mass
by Lisa M. Hendey
Wang, founder and lead singer of the highly regarded Catholic rock group
Critical Mass, is one cool Catholic dad. This husband, university
professor, and homeschooling dad of nine makes time to practice his lead
vocals while driving or in the late night hours. His dedication to his craft
is impressive, and even more so once you have the opportunity to sit down
and listen to one of Critical Mass’ CDs.
With their third project,
Hope in the Darkness, this
award winning band tells a compelling tale. While each of the songs stands
on its own merit, the cumulative effect is a saga of overcoming sin and
temptation, a life of tragedy and despair, and an ultimate turning of the
heart to find peace in God. Music fans of “a certain age” will love the
band’s cover of the classic “Carry On Wayward Son” as much as their
kids will enjoy the updated take. As the mom of a teenager, I’m always
thrilled to find music that my son and I can both enjoy. Critical Mass has
given us that gift with
Hope in the Darkness – its
musicality is awesome and the storyline of the project is both gripping and
a message you’ll want to share with the young people in your life.
In advance of their upcoming Fall Tour, I had an opportunity to catch up
with David Wang of Critical Mass. He shared the following comments on the
band, their latest CD and Catholic rock today.
David Wang and Critical Mass, please introduce us to the current members of
the band and give us a bit of history about your group.
A: I am the founder of Critical Mass. Critical Mass has been around since
1997 and we've released three studio albums.
Faith Looks Up
was a demo recording but ended up winning Best Modern Rock album awards from
the United Catholic Music and Video Association. Our sophomore album,
Completely, won Best Rock Album honors from the Canadian Gospel
Music Association. That led to our being one of the main bands for World
Youth Day 2002 where the band performed music ministry for almost 1 million
people. If you were at the Papal Welcoming or the Papal Vigil, you were
listening to Critical Mass. The song, Share it With the World,
was on the World Youth Day compilation CD, which sold 40,000 copies. After
WYD 2002, there was a turnover in band members. The new members of Critical
Mass bring a fresh, edgy sound to live performances and we are now touring
in support of the album,
Hope in the Darkness, which
is garnering very good reviews.
Q: David, as a mom I have to ask, how does a dad of
nine and a university professor find time to write and perform Christian
A: As with most Catholic musicians, this is a part time endeavor. Most
practices, studio time and songwriting occur between the hours of 9pn and
1am. I practice a lot of my vocals in the car whenever I am driving. Whereas
some people would take time to sit and watch television, I take all my spare
time and dedicate it to my music. With 9 kids, a vacation where we travel is
not necessarily restful so we often combine music tour dates with an
opportunity to travel. We home-school which gives us the flexibility to hit
the road occasionally.
Q: What do your wife and kids think of having a
rock star for a dad?
A: The kids have grown up with this. Jodie, my wonderful and incredible
wife, was part of the band until shortly after World Youth Day 2002. She was
one of the female vocalists on the previous album. My kids sing a bit on
this album and are quite used to seeing their dad jump around on stage. In
terms of being a "rock star", there really is no such thing in the Catholic
market. There is more of an attitude of serving than in either the secular
or Evangelical Christian markets.
Q: I've read reviews calling your newest CD
Hope in the Darkness
a "concept CD". What came first - the songs or the storyline? Can you share
the creative process that went into writing and recording this CD?
A: This CD does indeed have a story line. It is a concept album and every
song ties into the storyline. It has a very heavy Pink Floyd "The Wall"
influence. Some of the songs were written first but it became very clear
early on that this could be morphed into a concept album. It took a bit to
convince the producer, Andrew Horrocks, that I wasn't crazy but once he was
sold on the idea, everything clicked into place very quickly. One unusual
thing about this album, however, is that most of the words were written
first. This is opposite to the way most albums are written but it was a
necessity for a concept album.
Q: For our readers who haven't yet heard the CD,
give us an overview of the storyline you present?
A: Essentially, it is a story about a man who is lured and tempted away from
God by secular things in his life, such as money, power and pornography. He
has a daughter, whom he neglects, and she turns to a lurid lifestyle because
of this. She ends up getting pregnant is her father tries to convince her to
have an abortion. However, a kindly priest intervenes to save the unborn
child. The father is furious and confronts the priest with much anger. Years
later, however, the daughter dies suddenly in a car accident and the father
is distraught. Out of despair, he returns to the priest and learns that his
daughter had found peace with God. This causes his heart to finally melt. He
is a changed man when he takes up the responsibility of raising his
granddaughter. At his death, he is finally reunited with his daughter in
heaven and with our Lord Jesus Christ.
Q: How did you decide to cover "Carry On Wayward
Son" and can you tell us about the rap featured in this song? What type of
reaction do you get when you play this song live?
A: Carry On is a song that I have always loved. The songwriter, Kerry
Livgren of Kansas, was searching for God during the time that he wrote the
song and he actually converted to Christianity a few years later. I added a
rap to make it more relevant to the CD and I used it as an overture for the
album at the start. It was a real challenge to remain faithful to the
original but also to give it a contemporary feel.
Q: I have to ask you - what it was like to perform
at Toronto's World Youth Day for the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II?
A: It was awe-inspiring. We were one of the fortunate few that caught to
witness our Holy Father's suffering and strength from up close. It was
incredible how he drew strength from the youth. Just when you thought he
would have to stop from exhaustion, the chanting from the youth seemed to
reinvigorate him and he would continue on. I think this is a model for how
we should now interact with him now that he is with God in heaven. I really
believe that he will be a powerful aid to the youth. I encourage all youth
to pray for intercession from this holy saint. I picture the world's youth
continuing to reach out to JPII and I picture him continuing to guide and
lead the youth of the world.
Q: What is the future of Catholic rock? How can we
help support and encourage more great Catholic music?
A: We need more musicians to counter the secular influences in popular
culture. This includes not only rock but other genres of music such as
hip-hop. It also includes not only music but also television, movies and
other art forms. For centuries, the Catholic Church has influenced the world
through her music and art. The Sistine chapel is such an example. It is now
the time to re-establish Catholic art as second-to-none in quality. A recent
example of the influence of this would be Mel Gibson's "Passion of the
Christ". However, as audiences did for this superb film, we need Catholics
to support Catholic musicians. It takes finances and resources to produce
music to compete with the secular counterparts in terms of qualities.
Catholics need to start buying catholic music and going to concerts.
Q: What do Catholic kids want in their music? How
can Catholic parents help their kids tune in to music that elevates the soul
A: Catholic parents have to start to understand the influence of music in
the child's life. I have had some parents refuse to buy Catholic rock but
are troubled when their kids start to sing and listen to the garbage that is
not only on the radio but is everywhere around us, from stores to the
television to their friend's mp3 players. They try to buy very traditional
Catholic music and force their children to listen to it. What we have found
is the opposite. We produce rock that sounds and feels like what they listen
to now. We try to touch their lives in a subliminal way, in much the same
way that secular messages seep into their brains through repeated listening.
If the kids can maintain that contact, however frail, with the messages of
the Church, then we have found that the kids eventually return to the
sacraments, particularly the Eucharist and Confession. Surprisingly, at this
point, many of the kids do start to listen to more traditional music
(Gregorian chant, for example) and have a deeper appreciation for the
ancient traditions of our faith.
Q: Some feel that rock music comes from the devil
and that one shouldn't use rock music to try to glorify God. How do you feel
A: I believe that art is neutral. It is the lyrical content that makes it
either spiritual or secular. There are some that say that the rhythms of
rock music are derived from African tribal beats. That may be true but to
say that traditional folk music from Africa is somehow evil is prejudice in
its ugliest form. One must remember that the organ and piano were once
considered by the church to be secular and profane instruments. Even
Gregorian chant, one of Catholicism’s great contributions to music, comes
from Gregory the Great's time (590-604). Music has always been in a state of
change and transition.
Q: Tell us about your upcoming Fall Tour.
We are touring Canada in the fall and we will be doing many US dates in
2006, which will be the focus of our ministry.
For more information on Critical Mass, upcoming tour dates and their latest
CD Grasping for Hope in the Darkness visit
Catholic Music Network
Lisa M. Hendey is webmaster of
www.CatholicMom.com, a wife and mother of two and a Catholic music
fan and supporter. Visit her at
www.LisaHendey.com for more information.
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