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.
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 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. 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. 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.
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.
Howard released a solo album called Teenage Snuff Film in Australia in 1999.
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.
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”.