Rowland S. Howard

‘Rowland was undoubtedly one of Australia’s most original and innovative musical talents. His guitar playing influenced, and continues to influence and inspire a swathe of musicians all around the world. It took the untimely death of this uniquely charismatic and eloquent man to spark the wider acclaim and respect now afforded his work. A lot of love and labour has gone into the making of this anthology. I really wanted it to be like Rowland himself, so it had some gigantic shoes to fill. It had to sound brilliant, look gorgeous, be thought provoking and inspiring… and generally just extraordinary to have around.’ – Genevieve McGuckin

 Rowland S. Howard was a singular figure in postmodern rock. His distinctive guitar work set a standard for a style that has proved enormously influential. But there was so much more to him than that guitar. Rowland had an uncanny talent for writing atmospheric songs redolent of smoky, dimly lit rooms, and of pain and redemption. Songs that were autobiographical, lyrically beautiful and unusually heartfelt, which is why people who identify with him do so so strongly. They touch a nerve. For the duration of his career there was one common, unifying theme: one of absolute artistic non-compromise.

Born in Melbourne in 1959, a Fender Jaguar quickly became like another limb and Rowland formed his first band, The Young Charlatans, while still a teenager. It was during this stage that he wrote the classic ‘Shivers’, which was famously recorded by his next band, The Boys Next Door, formed with future Bad Seeds Nick Cave and Mick Harvey. The Boys Next Door mutated into the chaotic bluesy post-punk of The Birthday Party, who issued a handful of albums which blazed a trail through uncharted territory. When The Birthday Party imploded Rowland joined Aussie/Berlin art-rock pioneers Crime and the City Solution for a couple of albums.

Rowland then formed his own band, These Immortal Souls, the most well known incarnation of which was a quartet featuring Epic Soundtracks (formerly of Swell Maps), brother Harry Howard, and girlfriend Genevieve McGuckin. Although the band existed in one form or another from 1984 to 1998, sadly they only recorded two albums. These two, incredibly hard to find records, released in 1987 and 1992, perfectly realised Rowland’s vision of emotional rock.

During the life of These Immortal Souls, and indeed throughout his entire career, Rowland continued to collaborate with other artists – including Nikki Sudden (also formerly of Swell Maps), Lydia Lunch, Magic Dirt, and others. He loved having extra outlets for his creativity and often collaborated while in more lasting bands.

Rowland finally released his first solo album in 1999. Teenage Snuff Film is perhaps the most fully fleshed statement of his unique talent and remains a classic. Ten years later came Pop Crimes, his second and final solo album, released just months prior to his untimely passing from cancer in 2009.