On Wednesday 30th December 2009, Roland S. Howard, guitarist of iconic Australian band, THE BIRTHDAY PARTY, died in a Melbourne Hospital. His death was the result of an on-going battle with liver cancer. He was aged 50.
Howard had been awaiting a liver transplant for some time, and due to his illness, had to cancel several shows including one in Melbourne the day before he died with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Earlier in December, he had to cancel a show after being admitted to hospital. His last public performance was back in October at St Kilda’s Prince Bandroom. According to reports, he struggled through the show, coughing and spitting up blood.
Born on 24th October 1959, Howard’s musical career began in the late 70s with the band The Obsessions, although his first band of note was early Aussie Punks BOYS NEXT DOOR which also included Nick Cave in its line-up. In 1979 he wrote the band’s cult hit ‘Shivers’. BOYS NEXT DOOR eventually mutated into what became the legend that is BIRTHDAY PARTY. Nick Cave fronted the band throughout its tempestuous lifetime, while Howard provided a six-string sonic attack that welded feedback-laced blues riffs with some startling, reverb-drenched, slashing Punk stylings.
Following the band’s split in 1983, Howard went onto play in bands like CRIME AND THE CITY SOLUTION and THESE IMMORTAL SOULS, and collaborate with the likes of HENRY ROLLINS, NIKKI SUDDEN, JEFFREY LEE PIERCE and LYDIA LUNCH.
This year, he released what was his second solo album, the critically acclaimed ‘Pop Crimes’. On the album's title track he prophetically sang, ''I guess that I won't see you tomorrow. On this, our planet of perpetual sorrows''.
Along with music, Howard appeared in several feature-length films, such as Wim Wenders’ 1987 movie ‘Wings of Desire’, 1990’s ‘In Too Deep’ and the 2002 vampire film ‘The Queen of the Damned’ in which he cameod as a musician in a vampire club band. His role in the Australian Punk movement has also been captured in Richard Lowenstein’s documentary, ‘We’re Living On Dog Food’.
Howard's father, brother and sister all live in Melbourne.