Volume 95, Issue 9

Friday, September 14, 2001
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Darrin O'Brien is as sober and soft as a snowflake

Tielli is the anti cock-rocker

Harris Files take over your TV

Shits and Giggles

Darrin O'Brien is as sober and soft as a snowflake

By Marcus Maleus

Considering the inexplicable popularity of Snow's breakthrough single "Informer" in the early 90s, many thought it would be the beginning and end of commercial success for the rap/reggae musician from Scarborough, Ontario.

Snow, also known as Darrin O'Brien, spent his early days listening to reggae music and attempting to make out the often mumbled lyrics. Growing up in rough and tumble Scarborough gave him realistic inspiration for hard rap/reggae music. Despite this, he insists he never came out with any particularly negative music.

"Informer," the catchy reggae tune riddled with, at times, un-decipherable lyrics, proved to be an astounding success in both Canada and the United States. The song made its way into the Guinness Book of World Records twice. Once, as the highest selling reggae single in United States history and again as the highest charting reggae single in United Kingdom history.

The feeling of breaking sales and chart records of most of his childhood heroes presents strange feelings for O'Brien.

"It's kind of weird 'cause it's a white guy doing it," O'Brien says. "I'm not even from Jamaica. It's almost like Bob Marley or someone should have it."

O'Brien strongly disagrees with anyone who believes that in order to be able to write hardcore rap or reggae, you need to grow up in the ghetto. "Everyone can write hardcore rap because, in a way, everyone's had a rough up-bringing."

In the years since the success of the single "Informer" and his album 12 Inches of Snow, O'Brien's music has seen a number of stylistic and inspirational changes.

A number of factors came into play in the changing of his musical sound – the birth of his daughter Justuss six years ago and his personal decision to stay sober, are two of the most significant.

Justuss helps out her father by putting a critical ear to all his new material. "After I finish a new song in the studio, I play it for her to see if she likes it." She is, however, not the final say on his material; that's still daddy's decision.

Three years ago, after realizing the staggaring effects alcohol had on him, O'Brien made the concious decision to give up drinking. "I just did it 'cause it was bad for me. I wasn't a person who would drink and have fun. I'd get angry, so I had to give it up. It was [an easy decision] when I thought of the stupid stuff I did when I was drunk," he admits.

Although his decision to quit drinking was a conscious one, O'Brien insists the change in sound was unconscious.

"I worked with people who played more guitar, more bass and more real drummers. I had more variety and this is what came out; whatever I felt at that moment."

O'Brien classifies this new sound, featuring more vocals and live instruments, as 'soda,' "Someone once told me, 'you know, it's kind of pop,' and I said, nah, it's more soda," he laughs.

The new 'soda' sound has brought O'Brien together with a number of big-name Canadian musicians, including Moist's David Usher, Treble Charger and Sum 41. He has even managed to collaborate with his daughter Justuss on a children's album.

No need to fret though. The reggae inspiration he was once famous for is slowly working its way back into his new material. "Some people like the old stuff, some like the new. That's why I'm giving them more reggae on the new album. I love doing both singing and reggae."

Music has not been the only project on O'Brien's agenda. He recently starred as a prison guard in the Robert DeNiro-directed film, Prison Song. Having spent 18 months in jail for murder, a charge he was later acquitted on, O'Brien was well prepared for the part.

As far as future movie projects are concerned, O'Brien remains uncertain. "I have to see this one first, you know, see how I did. If it's really bad, then I'll stay away from that."

Gazette file photo
"I'M NOT EVEN FROM JAMACA." After an in-depth, probing interview, Snow admits his darkest secret.

Snow is set to play the Western Fair on Friday with SoulDecision. Tickets are $15. The concert starts at 7:30 p.m. and is open to all ages.

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Copyright The Gazette 2001