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Rowland S. Howard

Rowland S. Howard
Background information
Birth name Rowland Stuart Howard
Born (1959-10-24)24 October 1959
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Died 30 December 2009(2009-12-30) (aged 50)
Heidelberg, Victoria, Australia
Genres Post-punk
Occupation(s) Musician, songwriter
Instruments Guitar, organ, vocals
Years active 1975–2009
Associated acts The Birthday Party, The Boys Next Door, Crime & the City Solution, These Immortal Souls
Notable instruments
Ibanez No. 2348
Fender Jaguar

Rowland Stuart Howard (24 October 1959 – 30 December 2009) was an Australian rock musician, guitarist and songwriter, best known for his work with the post-punk group The Birthday Party and his subsequent solo career.


  • 1978–1990 1
  • 1990–1999 2
  • 2000–2009 3
  • Death 4
  • Legacy 5
  • Band history 6
  • Discography 7
  • Filmography 8
  • Equipment 9
  • Production credits 10
  • References 11
  • External links 12
  • Further reading / bibliography 13


Rowland Stuart Howard wrote "Shivers" at the age of 16 while in the band The Young Charlatans. Howard gained acclaim after joining Melbourne-based band The Boys Next Door, when the song was released as a single. The band changed their name to The Birthday Party and Howard's discordant guitar remained a major factor in their sound. The Birthday Party relocated from Australia to London in 1980 and subsequently to West Berlin.

The Birthday Party's early records were released by Missing Link Records in Australia and 4AD Records in the UK. They later became associated with Mute Records in Europe. Howard and Cave suffered 'creative differences', and Howard left the Birthday Party as they transformed into The Bad Seeds. He soon became a member of Crime & the City Solution, a band led by Simon Bonney. Later he formed These Immortal Souls with girlfriend Genevieve McGuckin, brother, Harry Howard, and Epic Soundtracks.

Howard also collaborated with Lydia Lunch, Nikki Sudden, Jeremy Gluck, French electro group KaS Product, Barry Adamson, Einstürzende Neubauten, guitarist Chris Haskett, The Gun Club singer and songwriter Jeffrey Lee Pierce, Fad Gadget, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Henry Rollins, and A.C. Marias.

Lydia Lunch and Thurston Moore recorded a version of Howard's song "Still Burning" for Lunch's In Limbo (1984). "Still Burning" had previously been recorded as a bass-heavy track with Howard on vocals, during the Honeymoon In Red recording sessions (1983–1987).

These Immortal Souls released their first album Get Lost, (Don't Lie!) in 1987 and played shows in Europe and America, returning to Australia for a short tour in 1988.


After the release of These Immortal Souls' second album, I'm Never Gonna Die Again, (1992) and another Howard/Lunch collaboration Shotgun Wedding, Howard, Lunch and members of The Beasts Of Bourbon performed live on tour in Australia and Europe. Shotgun Wedding was re-released with a second compact disc of live recordings. Shotgun Wedding featured cover versions of "In My Time of Dying" and Alice Cooper's "Black Juju".

Howard sang backing vocals on the Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds album Let Love In (1994). In 1995 These Immortal Souls contributed their version of "You Can't Unring a Bell" to a Tom Waits tribute album Step Right Up.

He left London to return to Melbourne in 1995.[1]

Paul Godfrey a.k.a. Epic Soundtracks, the UK drummer for These Immortal Souls, was found dead in his London apartment on 5 November 1997. These Immortal Souls played their last show, at the Greyhound Hotel in St Kilda, with Lydia Lunch in 1998.

Howard lamented in a 1999 television interview (Studio 22, ABCTV) with Clinton Walker that people still asked him about "Shivers", a song he wrote when he was sixteen years old which first became well-known when it was sung by Nick Cave.[2]

Howard released a solo album called Teenage Snuff Film in Australia in 1999.[3]


The Birthday Party song "Release the Bats" was used in the true crime film Chopper (2000).

An unofficial Rowland S. Howard fan website was established as the amount of Rowland S. Howard related information and file swapping grew steadily on the internet from the mid-1990s.

Howard made a cameo appearance in the 2002 vampire movie Queen of the Damned as a musician in a vampire club band.

In August 2005, Howard performed at the premiere party for Scott Crary's film Kill Your Idols in Melbourne, Australia, along with the band HTRK.[4]

French label Stagger Records released a double CD tribute album to Howard in 2007 featuring Mick Harvey, The Drones, The Holy Soul, Penny Ikinger, Loene Carmen, Nikki Sudden, Noah Taylor and many more.

In September 2007, Howard joined with Magic Dirt and Beasts of Bourbon for a tour of the east coast of Australia. Howard appeared at the All Tomorrows Parties rock festival in Australia in January 2009, curated by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. He was backed by Mick Harvey on drums, and JP Shilo on bass. Howard's second solo album, Pop Crimes, was released in October 2009 to acclaim from the musician Robert Forster. He appeared on the Magic Dirt EP White Boy playing guitar and supplying vocals on the track "Summer High".


He’d been told in 2003, when he was 44, that his liver was stricken with end-stage cirrhosis. Doctors compared it to the liver of a 74-year-old alcoholic.[5] Rowland S. Howard died of hepatocellular carcinoma secondary to liver cirrhosis on 30 December 2009. He was 50 years old. His funeral was held at Sacred Heart Church, St Kilda, Melbourne on 7 January 2010.

In an October 2009 interview, Howard said that the forthcoming album he was working on (Pop Crimes) was recorded quickly: "I contracted liver disease a while back and I've basically got liver cancer, I'm waiting for a transplant, if I don't get it things might not go so" .

His Birthday Party band mates reflected upon his death: Nick Cave told WENN, "This is very sad news. Rowland was Australia's most unique, gifted and uncompromising guitarist. He was also a good friend. He will be missed by many".[6] Mick Harvey remarked, "Sometimes people are ready to go because they have been sick for a long time, but Rowland really wanted to live. Things were going well for him outside his health and he wanted to take advantage of that, and he was very disappointed that he wasn't well enough to do so".[7]


In October 2011, filmmaker Richard Lowenstein (Dogs in Space) and Lynn-Maree Milburn (We're Living on Dogfood – documentary maker), released a 110-minute documentary film on the life of Rowland S. Howard titled Autoluminescent: Rowland S. Howard which had a limited release for cinema.[8] On 24 April 2013, Port Phillip Council approved a proposal to name a St Kilda laneway Rowland S. Howard Lane to honour Howard's contribution to the St Kilda music scene.[9]

Band history


The Boys Next Door
The Boys Next Door/The Birthday Party
  • The Birthday Party (LP 1980). Originally credited to the Boys Next Door. Later re-released and attributed to The Birthday Party.
The Birthday Party
With Lydia Lunch
Crime and the City Solution
These Immortal Souls
  • Get Lost (Don't Lie) (LP, 1987)
  • I'm Never Gonna Die Again (LP, 1992)
With Nikki Sudden
  • Kiss You Kidnapped Charabanc (LP, 1987)
  • Wedding Hotel (12" EP, 1987)



  • We're Living on Dog Food, 2009
  • Autoluminescent: Rowland S. Howard, 2011


  • Ibanez No. 2348 guitar, a copy of the Firebird model originally made by Gibson. He used it in his early days in the Australian rock scene, while he was member of Young Charlatans and The Boys Next Door, being inspired by Phil Manzanera from Roxy Music.[11]
  • Fender Jaguar guitar. It was a post-1966 Fender guitar, from the CBS era. Considered as his main guitar, Howard got it in 1978.
  • Fender Twin Reverb amplifier (1970's model with master volume). Rowland used these amps almost exclusively throughout his career.
  • MXR Blue Box effects pedal. Many of his trademark distortion excursions were assisted by this guitar pedal.
  • MXR Distortion + effects pedal.

Production credits


  1. ^ "Hero to the Australian underground". Retrieved 2013-07-20. 
  2. ^ "Rowland S Howard – Shivers". YouTube. 2009-01-02. Retrieved 2013-07-20. 
  3. ^ [2]
  4. ^ Jo Roberts (2005-07-25). "Sticky Carpet". Retrieved 2015-10-10. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ "Cave Pays Tribute To 'Gifted' Howard". 2009-12-30. Retrieved 2013-07-20. 
  7. ^ "Bandmate pays tribute to Birthday Party guitarist – Entertainment – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)". 2009-12-31. Retrieved 2013-07-20. 
  8. ^ Tom Ryan. "Autoluminescent: Rowland S. Howard". Retrieved 2013-07-20. 
  9. ^ "Rowland S Howard Laneway Approved By Port Phillip Council on Tone Deaf – The Home Of Australian Music". 2013-04-24. Retrieved 2013-07-20. 
  10. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 58.  
  11. ^ Valentish, Jenny (2010-01-13). "Nick Cave’s Right-Hand Man: Remembering Rowland S Howard | Rocks Back Pages – Archives – Yahoo! Music". Retrieved 2013-07-20. 

External links

Further reading / bibliography

  • Extensive archival information on
  • From Pop to Punk to Postmodernism: Popular Music and Australian Culture from the 1960s to the 1990s, (Edited by Philip Hayward).
  • Bad Seed: A biography of Nick Cave, Ian Johnston (1995).
  • NME
  • Future Pop: Music for the Eighties, Peter Noble (1983)
  • Stranded: The Secret History of Australian Independent Music 1977–1991, Clinton Walker.
  • Incriminating Evidence, Lydia Lunch. Last Gasp Books.
  • Nikki Sudden weblog.
  • Nikki Sudden quote taken from Nikki Sudden weblog, 23 March 2006.
  • Tape Delay: Confessions From The Eighties Underground, Charles Neal.
  • Fast Forward, Tape Zine, Melbourne, edited by Bruce Milne
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