February 15, 2018 Interview – Snow
The key to life, stay humble. Well, maybe it is not that simple, but it is a good start! Taken directly from the mouth of Darrin Kenneth O’Brien, the Canadian Reggae artist famously known across the globe as Snow. Rising to fame in the USA with his 1993 single “Informer,” it would spend 7 weeks at No. 1 on the US Billboard Hot 100, forever placing his stamp on music history. An amazing feat, Snow would go on to continued success abroad and his 1993 debut album 12 Inches of Snow would sell over 8 million records worldwide while becoming certified RIAA Platinum in the U.S. and CRIA Triple Platinum in Canada.
So where has the artist known as Snow been since 2002 when he released his final studio album Two Hands Clapping? Not to worry, he is still going strong and while taking some time to kickback a bit, Snow returns in 2018 with a brand new re-recorded edition of “Informer.” In honor of the 25th anniversary of the song, and his debut album, it marks a new beginning for Snow, who has some new music ready to roll. Recently we caught up with the singer to talk his entrance into the world of Reggae, overcoming adversity, plans for the future, and more.
CrypticRock.com – Involved in music for over 3 decades now, you attained massive success in 1993 with your single “Informer.” Through highs and lows, briefly tell us what has your journey been like in music?
Snow – It has been amazing. First of all, music got me out of trouble. Before music, I was going to jail a lot, and when music hit, I was able to buy my mom a house and stuff like that. It also did a lot of bad, it made me drink more and get in more trouble. Then in 1993, when I had the number 1 song in America, they threw me out of the country for life. Then Japan threw me out, it just started going from there.
CrypticRock.com – It sounds like there were tribulations, but also there were high points as well.
Snow – You have to have the highs and lows. The ying and the yang, it has to go together. I knew when the highs were coming, the lows were right behind it. I didn’t really mind though.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, sometimes that is the way it goes. The track “Informer” really had a major impact, spending seven consecutive weeks at number 1 on charts. Looking back, what was that time like for you when the song was red hot?
Snow – The funniest thing is when I went to New York. I wrote the song in jail when I was charged for two attempted murders. I wrote a little piece of it, “Informer you no say daddy me Snow me I’ll go blame. A lickety boom boom down.” I didn’t really want to be a singer, but when I got out of jail I went to New York in 1991 and met up with MC Shan – I sang it to him, we went back to his house, and started recording. We did the whole album there, then we did the video, but I didn’t see video edits or album mixed.
I went back to Toronto because I had more charges and they put me in jail for another year. Now I am in jail, they gave me another year for something else, and while I was in jail, the last month there, they released the video. The first time I saw my video was in jail. I had never seen myself on TV before and next thing I know I am in jail and the video is of me in jail. It was kind of crazy. I got out of jail at number 1 and I was confused mostly thinking, “People like this song?” People didn’t even know what I was saying, but it just went to number 1 and boom, I was going to Italy, Paris, then that is when they started throwing me out. It was cool, it was shocking, people were singing my song in Germany, Italy, and all these different countries.
CrypticRock.com – Wow, that sounds pretty crazy. The single followed with the full-length album 12 inches of Snow. A fusion of styles, was it your objective to create a hybrid record?
Snow – No, that is just where my mind was because I grew up in a neighborhood where I had Reggae Rock. I used to be a KISS fan, and when I met MC Shan, it all just came out of me. We didn’t even have a plan. They said go ahead, do what you do. I just came out, did that, then I did big songs in Jamaica like “Anything For You” with Beenie Man and Buju Banton.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, and you put out quite a few albums over the years. Now 25 years removed from your debut’s success, you recently released a new edition of “Informer.” A slightly different feel than the original, what inspired this latest mix of the song?
Snow – My managers, Paul and Matt from England, they were talking to me and said, “We have to do that song over, it’s a wicked song and a lot of kids don’t even know about it.” Then Jurgen, from Radikal Records, said, “Let’s do it!” Everybody got together, I did the vocals over, sent them in, and they did all the mixes. It came out amazing and now you can get it on iTunes and such. It was mostly them calling me saying, “Yo let’s do it!” I said, ‘Alright, let’s do it! Boom!’
CrypticRock.com – Very cool. So it is an actual re-recording, which is even more exciting than a remix.
Snow – Yea, I did all the vocals over. We didn’t want to do a remix, there are a lot of remixes out there. We wanted to do it fresh and me doing the vocals over. There is nobody like me out there that can do this.
CrypticRock.com – The mix is certainly fresh. What was it like working with Audiofreaks? It still has the flair of the original but fits well with the modern sound.
Snow – Yea. that was all them. I sent the vocals over, they started to send different mixes. Audiofreaks took it from there and started getting different producers.
CrypticRock.com – It came out great. It has been over 15 years since your 2002 album, Two Hands Clapping. That in mind, can we possibly expect some new music from Snow in 2018?
Snow – I’ve got big songs coming. I’ve got songs with Fat Joe, Michael Rose, Cool & Dre, Kent Jones, and Scott Storch. Before I just took a break and said, ‘I ain’t doing music.’ I got a hammock and laid in the hammock for about, I don’t know, 7 years. That was it, I woke up and said, ‘Let me do another album.’ I got all of them producers and we have some wicked songs coming out. With “Informer,” it is just the 25 year anniversary, then we are going to come with some crazy other songs. Trust me, I have different, other songs.
CrypticRock.com – Awesome! It will be fun to hear since it has been a while.
Snow – Yea, it has been a while. You hear my style, that’s the style that is out right now. People are doing Reggae Dance now. Especially Reggaeton. We got Daddy Yankee, we did a song with him. We are doing a bunch of Reggaeton stuff too.
CrypticRock.com – Great! Can we also expect some new live shows?
Snow – We are working on that. I just have to get a waiver and get a year pass. I have to go through all this stuff to get the pass but we will get there. I haven’t been to America in a while.
CrypticRock.com – That is also something to look forward to as well. Obviously you have had a lot of life experience. What would you say are some of the more important things you have learned?
Snow – To stay humble. What else have I learned? I learned not to drink as much. I quit drinking in 1997, that was a big thing. I haven’t had a drink since then. I have been to Ireland and everything.
CrypticRock.com – Those are two good pieces of advice. Congratulations for being sober for over 20 years.
Snow – I haven’t had a charge in 20 years as well. They went together, every time I drank I would get a charge. Not drinking and driving, I am talking assaults and stuff like that. I gave it up.
CrypticRock.com – Good for you. You are healthy and have new music on the way. What were you doing in your time off, anything creative?
Snow – Yea, I did a lot of music. I was working with Gordon “Commissioner Gordon” Williams and RedZone. I have a lot of music, but I never wanted to put it out. I just kept working with different artists. I just never really put anything out though. After “Informer,” I went to Jamaica and did the song with Buju Banton and Beenie Man, “Anything for You.” That is the biggest Reggae song for me, bigger than “Informer.” I believe it was something like 52 weeks at number one in Jamaica. That was the big song for me.
CrypticRock.com – That is a fantastic achievement. You mentioned how, with “Informer,” many people did not really know what you were saying. Have you had people approach you through the years asking about the lyrics?
Snow – Oh yea, they just do the same lyrics as everybody, “Informer…..” Some people get it wrong, some people think when I say, “born an’ raised in the ghetto” it sounds like I say born in Connecticut. Some people say, “Yo Snow, I’m from Connecticut too.” I’m like, Connecticut? I didn’t even know where Connecticut was. I would say, ‘No, I’m from Toronto.’ A lot of people get the words different, but it’s alright. It is kind of crazy that a white guy from Canada and you don’t even understand him, right? You are supposed to understand him the most, right? Not me, I don’t know where it came from. It came from my neighborhood, the Brown family, they are the ones who cut my hair short, put the glasses on me and gave me the Reggae music.
CrypticRock.com – (Laughs) It all starts somewhere. You said you grew up with a lot of different music. What are some of your favorite artists?
Snow – My favorite artist back in the day had to be Ozzy Osbourne, KISS, and Led Zeppelin. I was Rock until around 14 and then Hip Hop. Then I got out of Hip Hop and got into Reggae music hard. I didn’t really know what they were saying, just like people do with “Informer,” thinking what did he say? I would rewind the tape and figure out what he said. I was not trying to learn it to sing it, I never wanted to be a singer, I just wanted to know what he was saying. Then about a year or two later it started coming out of my mouth and people said, “Yo, you sound good.” I just went from there.
CrypticRock.com – Sometimes things happen when you least expect it, right?
Snow – Yup, and that was the least expected, trust me. The real test was when I went to jail. When I went to jail and I would sing to all the Jamaicans in jail, they would lose their mind. That is my first place I rapped, the jailhouse. After that, everything else was simple. As long as the Jamaicans give me respect, I’m good.
CrypticRock.com – That is very validating, for sure. Last question. CrypticRock.com covers music and Horror/Sci-Fi films. If you have seen any new Horror/Sci-Fi related films lately, what were some of your favorite?
Snow – One of the Horror movies that scared me the most was When A Stranger Calls (1979) and one called Black Christmas (1974). It depends on what age you are watching them. If I watched it now I don’t even know if I would be scared. Back then, forget it!
CrypticRock.com – Black Christmas is a classic Horror flick! It is very dark and atmospheric, that is what made it effective.
Snow – Oh yea, and the Christmas theme. On the Sci-Fi end. I am going to go with Star Wars (1977). Where I grew up, across the street there was the Fairview Mall, and they played Star Wars there for 3 years straight!
CrypticRock.com – That is really a long time. What are some of your favorite films in general?
Snow – My favorite probably is Goodfellas (1990) or The Godfather (1972). Then I have E.T. (1982), The Wizard of Oz (1939), and Grease (1978). Grease I think is the best! Grease, forget it, I know every song. For a new movie, Brooklyn (2015), it is an Irish movie. It is sad, you have to read a Louis L’Amour book after you see that one, toughen yourself up a bit.