Rowland S. Howard
Background information
Birth nameRowland Stuart Howard
Born(1959-10-24)24 October 1959
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Died30 December 2009(2009-12-30) (aged 50)
Heidelberg, Victoria, Australia
Occupation(s)Musician, songwriter
Instrument(s)Guitar, organ, vocals
Years active1975–2009

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.

Early life

Rowland Stuart Howard was born on 24 October 1959 in Melbourne, to John Stanton Howard and Lorraine (née Stuart), the second of three children.[1] His siblings were sister Angela Howard and brother Harry Howard,[2] both also musicians. In a 2016 interview, his brother Harry Howard stated the family is of paternal English descent from Bolton, Lancashire and maternal Scottish descent.[3][non-primary source needed]



Rowland Stuart Howard wrote "Shivers" at the age of 16 while in the band 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 was also a member of the short-lived project, Tuff Monks with Birthday Party bandmates, Nick Cave and Mick Harvey. However, Howard and singer Nick 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. Howard, with Crime & the City Solution, appeared in the 1987 movie Wings of Desire by German filmmaker Wim Wenders playing the song "Six Bells Chime" in a Berlin Club. Later he formed These Immortal Souls with girlfriend Genevieve McGuckin, brother, Harry Howard, and Epic Soundtracks.

Howard also collaborated with Lydia Lunch, Nikki Sudden, ex-Barracudas singer Jeremy Gluck, guitarist Gavin Poolman, 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 with guitarist Link Benka.[4] 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". Recorded in Memphis with Link Benka (rhythm guitar), Joseph -Joe- Drake (bass) and Brent Newman (aka Glyn Styler) (drums).[5]

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.[6]

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.[7]

Howard released a solo album called Teenage Snuff Film in Australia in 1999.[8] He was backed by Mick Harvey on drums, and Brian Hooper on bass.


Howard performing at The Tote, Melbourne, 2007

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.[9]

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".

Illness and death

Howard suffered from chronic Hepatitis C virus and had 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.[10] 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" . He died of hepatocellular carcinoma secondary to liver cirrhosis on 30 December 2009.[11] Howard was 50 years old. His funeral was held at Sacred Heart Church, St Kilda, Melbourne on 7 January 2010.

His Birthday Party bandmates 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".[12] 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".[13]


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.[14] 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.[15] Pop Crimes: The Songs of Rowland S. Howard, an occasional band composed of Rowland's friends and bandmates began performing in 2013; they toured Europe in February 2020.[16] In June 2020, Yves Saint Laurent used his song 'Shut Me Down' for an advertisement campaign.[17]

Band history


The Boys Next Door
The Boys Next Door/The Birthday Party
The Birthday Party
With Lydia Lunch
Crime and the City Solution
These Immortal Souls
With Nikki Sudden




Production credits


AIR Awards

The Australian Independent Record Awards (commonly known informally as AIR Awards) is an annual awards night to recognise, promote and celebrate the success of Australia's Independent Music sector.

Year Nominee / work Award Result
AIR Awards of 2010[20][21] Pop Crimes Best Independent Album Nominated


  1. ^ "Hero to the Australian underground". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 22 April 2020.
  2. ^ "Hero to the Australian underground". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 22 April 2020.
  3. ^ "Harry Howard Q&A September 2016 "It was a bit like a friendly war to try and make your own part the best, but R always won". Facebook. 15 September 2016. Retrieved 22 April 2020.
  4. ^ "Shot Gun Wedding". From the Archives.
  5. ^ "1991". From the Archives.
  6. ^ "Hero to the Australian underground". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 20 July 2013.
  7. ^ "Rowland S Howard – Shivers". 2 January 2009. Archived from the original on 13 December 2021. Retrieved 20 July 2013 – via YouTube.
  8. ^ "Solo Album Teenage Snuff Film". Archived from the original on 20 December 2014. Retrieved 20 December 2014.
  9. ^ Jo Roberts (25 July 2005). "Sticky Carpet". The Age. Retrieved 10 October 2015.
  10. ^ "Bad seed". The Australian. 19 February 2010. Retrieved 30 November 2017.
  11. ^ "Hero to the Australian underground". The Sydney Morning Herald. 7 January 2010. Retrieved 30 November 2017.
  12. ^ "Cave Pays Tribute To 'Gifted' Howard". 30 December 2009. Retrieved 20 July 2013.
  13. ^ "Bandmate pays tribute to Birthday Party guitarist – Entertainment". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 31 December 2009. Retrieved 20 July 2013.
  14. ^ Tom Ryan. "Autoluminescent: Rowland S. Howard". The Age. Retrieved 20 July 2013.
  15. ^ "Rowland S Howard Laneway Approved By Port Phillip Council on Tone Deaf – The Home of Australian Music". 24 April 2013. Retrieved 20 July 2013.
  16. ^ "From The Archives -Pop Crimes (Rowland S. Howard tributes)- Chronology". Retrieved 7 June 2021.
  17. ^ "Blackpink's Rosé dances to Rowland S. Howard for Saint Laurent". Retrieved 31 December 2020.
  18. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 58. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  19. ^ Valentish, Jenny (13 January 2010). "Nick Cave's Right-Hand Man: Remembering Rowland S Howard | Rocks Back Pages – Archives". Yahoo! Music. Retrieved 20 July 2013.
  20. ^ "Jagermeister Independent Music Awards Nominations Announced!". 1 September 2010. Retrieved 19 August 2020.
  21. ^ "History Wins". Australian Independent Record Labels Association. Retrieved 18 August 2020.

Further reading and bibliography