Thursday, April 9, 2015

Rowland

Rowland S. Howard, Toronto, April 1, 1988

TO THIS DAY I'M NOT ENTIRELY SURE WHY I PHOTOGRAPHED Rowland S. Howard and his band. I had given the first These Immortal Souls record a bad review in Nerve, and I didn't do an interview that might have accompanied these photos in the paper. The mystery is why I assigned myself to shoot a band whose record I panned without a client to take care of the expenses or put the results in print.

Actually, it's not that mysterious. Whatever I might have thought about his new band - and I'm willing to admit that I was wrong - he had been the guitarist in The Birthday Party, and I was a fan, so I was probably just headhunting; collecting another portrait of someone I admired for my portfolio or posterity or some vague ambition to be the William Claxton of the post-post-punk/pre-grunge musical scene. Maybe.

Harry Howard, Epic Soundtracks, Rowland S. Howard, Toronto, April 1,1988

And so two months after shooting Lydia Lunch, I was in the same little former bar next to the main room at the Silver Dollar Club around soundcheck, my little studio-in-a-bag taking up a corner while I loaded my Mamiya C330 and tried to figure out what to do with Howard and his band. The group shot is hardly anything for the ages, but it does capture the crumpled state of my painter's drop cloth after several months living mostly in a gym bag whenever I wasn't taping it up on the walls of dressing rooms and backstage hallways.

I mentioned in passing to Rowland that I'd shot Lydia Lunch on the same spot just a few weeks previous, and he perked up, asking me what I'd thought of her. I said that she worked very hard to maintain her surly, confrontational image, but that every now and then you got a glimpse of this nice Catholic girl from upstate New York that she may once have been, in a distinctly sweet smile that would slip itself in between sneers. Howard agreed that the nice girl was in there somewhere, if you knew where to look. I asked him to turn sideways on the stool that seemed to have been sitting in the room since I'd shot here last.

Rowland S. Howard, Toronto, April 1, 1988

Howard would record another These Immortal Souls record and two solo albums, by which point I'd finally come around to appreciate what he was doing, as distinct from the Birthday Party and undeniably inspired by his musical hero, Lee Hazlewood. He lived for years with a brutal drug problem; in Autoluminescent, a recent documentary film about Howard, he makes a heartbreaking declaration about how much it diminished his life, a regret that comes - almost inevitably - too late.

I never did find a market for these photos; this is the first time they've seen anything like publication.

Epic Soundtracks died in his sleep on November 6, 1997.

Rowland S. Howard died of liver cancer on December 30, 2009.



(UPDATE: Thanks to Hans at fromthearchives.org for giving me the exact date when I shot Rowland and his band.)

   

3 comments:

  1. Love, love, love these photos! So glad you took them!

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  2. Thank you for sharing these with us! They are beautiful!

    ReplyDelete