This originally ran in MRR #301, June 2008 which you can pick up here
Interview by Paco La Vida en Mus
MRR: Red Dons is the continuation of The Observers. Doug wrote most songs for The Observers and now does in Red Dons. Can you explain how The Observers came to an end and how Red Dons got together?
Douglas: All I can decipher about the demise of The Observers is that our friendships simply fell apart and so the band quickly followed. Sadly, I don’t know all the specific events that lead to the end of the band because I was never included in discussions about breaking up the group. A few days after the guys quit, I asked if they would record two final songs that Kashani and I wrote together. They voted not to and that made it difficult for me to find closure with the project.
It put me in a unique and unfortunate situation. Being the main songwriter and lead singer of the group, I was encouraged by a large number of people to find new members and continue on with the band. The Observers were my life, and I was caught off guard by the others leaving, so I seriously considered reforming the group. I just wasn’t ready for the band to end.
Hajji and I started practicing Observers songs with our first drummer, and Justin came along later after we had worked a little with other guitarists like Adam Becker of Autistic Youth and Defect Defect. Ultimately, we changed the name because after practicing together and discussing ideas for future recordings, we realized the group had taken on an identity of its own. Coming to that point was a yearlong process where we endured defamation and were ostracized in the punk scene. It wasn’t a fun time.
What’s interesting is that the Red Dons are a project that in theory predates The Observers. Hajji and I had been discussing and planning this ever since 2000 when we lived together in college housing. Back then, the Red Dons were intended to be a side project that would only release 7″s. Each 7″ would feature different musicians from various backgrounds making each record diverse in sound and style. We even had a power pop 7″ written and ready to go. For example, in 2002, after I moved back to Portland from Germany and Hajji from Jordan, we started working on Escaping Amman. The design of the record, its artwork, and the song “West Bank” are all products of that time period before The Observers even formed.
With that said, however, the Red Dons identity has changed because of The Observers. Now, the Red Dons aren’t a conceptual side project because they do act as a continuation of The Observers. Some of the original ideas we had for the project have remained, though. One of our main objectives is that the band acts as a sort of collective much like Crass did. With people free to come and go as they please, the band can still collaborate with musicians we admire as well as play whatever we’d like to. It is a way to destroy the rules of punk and frees us up to do many different things.
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