On Rowland’s official site, I’ve been perusing the pages of media, to see what’s still there to be found. Many things are over 10 years old and I started looking for the Inpress issue with Rowland on the cover, dated October 14, 2019. I couldn’t find the actual scan of it in any archive. Sad face.
Melbourne is one of the few true rock’n’roll capitols of the world. And Inpress magazine is the voice of this great rock’n’roll city. As Melbourne’s most credible and cutting edge rock bible, Inpress has earned a reputation among music aficionados that matches the city’s – as equal to world’s best. Think the UK’s NME crossed with New York’s Village Voice with an entertainingly Australian irreverence.
For over 20 years, Inpress has been covering every inch of the entertainment scene, profiling international performers and events and, most importantly, fostering Australian art and artists. Inpress has also proved a fertile breeding ground for dynamic new journalism and design and has launched the careers of many music industry luminaries.
Published and read by over 120,000 people weekly, Inpress is distributed in carefully targeted pubs, clubs, cafes, council offices, universities and stores throughout greater Melbourne, Geelong and the Mornington Peninsula and all major victorian regional centres. With a primary focus on the 18-30 demographic, Inpress specialises in contemporary popular music – rock, punk, metal and roots. In depth features, profiles and reviews by some of the country’s leading journalists, specialist columns (including industry news by nationally syndicated columnist Ben Butler), and an exhaustive gig guide make for essential weekly reading for Melbourne’s youth.
(Unfortunately, Inpress’ final issue was released August 14, 2013)
But if you know me, you’ll know that I’m a fairly good sleuth. I tried to find anything else about a scan of this issue with Rowland on the cover, to no avail. Here’s the transcription of it from Rowland’s official site and here’s the thumbnail.
So I looked up Tom Hawking and can’t believe what I found!! He wrote this on Medium on May 6, 2020!
It looks like the below pic is the original pic for the Inpress cover, it’s by photographer Kane Hibberd.
Here’s the repost of Tom Hawking from Medium.
Reflections on Rowland
I want to write a bit about Rowland S Howard, who I knew a little in person — he was good friends with my ex-girlfriend’s mother — and whose music I love. His wonderful 1999 album Teenage Snuff Film was recently released for the first time in the USA; I wanted to write about it, but for various reasons that didn’t happen, so I’m writing something here instead.
I admired Rowland so, so much. It’s hard for most of us not to think of his career without thinking of Nick Cave, who had enjoyed much more commercial success — but Rowland always struck me as the more interesting one, the John Cale to Cave’s Lou Reed, the Brian Eno to Cave’s Bryan Ferry. His songs were every bit as dark as his old bandmate’s, but they were leavened by a bone-dry sense of humour and a sense of fragility, both of which Cave’s often lacked. That fragility seemed to underpin his relative lack of commercial success; it takes a certain sort of person to really go after fame and success, a certain single-mindedness and ruthlessness.
I didn’t know Rowland well enough to say if he lacked those things, but I related to what I perceived in him. And I just loved his music: lyrics as acerbic as they were deeply compassionate, songs that didn’t really sound like anyone else. And then, of course, there was his guitar playing… he’s one of the rare players with a tone all his own, a coruscating sound that makes his records instantly recognizable.
When Rowland died, I was working as the editor of Inpress magazine, a Melbourne street press publication that was basically the city’s equivalent to the Village Voice. Because I had met Rowland a few times, I largely recused myself from writing about his work. However, when we got the news he was releasing a new album, we found a cover spot for him, and I decided I’d do the interview myself.
It turned out to be what I am pretty sure was Rowland’s final interview before he died. And I bottled it. Completely.
A couple of months before he died, he came to our office in Richmond to sit for a cover shoot with our photographer Kane Hibberd and then talk to me for the accompanying story. He was extremely frail. We tried to keep the shoot as short as possible — although Kane still managed to take a really lovely portrait, which he has generously agreed to let me use here and which you can see above — but by the time we went upstairs to speak, he was clearly flagging.
The interview only lasted for about ten minutes. I asked fairly superficial questions, finishing with the observation that, hilariously, Rowland had been nominated for that year’s “Best Breakthrough Artist” ARIA award. (The ARIAs are basically Australia’s equivalent of the Grammys.) It was almost too bitterly ironic to be true — at the age of 50, in the last months of his life, a dying man was being acclaimed as a hot new artist. When I read back through my feature, it’s clear how much I had to pad it out to meet the word count — cover stories were 1250 words, and of those, perhaps 200 are direct quotes.
Even Rowland seemed surprised by how brief the interview was. He was clearly proud of his new record, Pop Crimes, as well he might have been — the simple fact of its existence was remarkable, considering how sick its creator was. I asked him about the process of making it, and the musicians he worked with, and blah blah blah.
I couldn’t find the words to ask the questions I really wanted to ask, though — and honestly, I wasn’t sure if I really did want to ask those questions anyway. Listening back to Pop Crimes now, I get the same feeling I did then: that as the album progresses, there’s a growing feeling feeling of complete, utter despair, the despair of a man who knew he was dying and was desperate not to do so. At times the feeling of impending loss, and of Rowland’s awareness of what he was about to lose, is so clear that listening almost feels intrusive. The lyrics certainly allude to it: “The Golden Age of Bloodshed” speaks of how in “this worst of all possible worlds, this planet of perpetual sorrow”, its narrator had “found the best of all possible girls/ She’s pure, and white, and bright as tomorrow.”
Like Teenage Snuff Film, Pop Crimes included a couple of cover versions, and even at the time, Rowland’s choice to cover Talk Talk’s “Life’s What You Make It” for the latter seemed instructive: when I was reviewing the album, I was struck by how heartfelt the lines “Yesterday’s faded/ Nothing can change it/ Life’s what you make it…” seemed. And again, reading the recent feature in the Guardian about Rowland’s last days, and the deep regret he apparently felt about his life — “I’ve lost so much of my life… It’s been wasted — thrown away” — only makes those words more poignant.
How do you ask about something like that? How do you ask about an impending and premature death? About oblivion? About regret? I don’t know now, and I certainly didn’t know in 2009. And honestly, in retrospect, I’m glad I didn’t. Such questions are for trusted friends, not for me.
Perhaps I was, and still am, projecting, but he had a sense of not going gentle, of wanting to rage against the dying of the light. I have very clear memories of his last show, when he was apparently so ill that it was unclear that he was going to be able to take the stage. For the first few songs, he seemed OK, but about halfway through the set, he lurched and coughed a gout of blood that splattered all over his shirt and guitar. (Some of that blood still stained his guitar at his funeral.)
Another of our photographers, James Morgan, was taking pictures of the show, and happened to be shooting at that exact moment. He captured a remarkable triptych of Rowland staring at the blood on his hand, wiping it from his mouth, and then returning to his song.
James has kindly provided me with the images, which as far as I know have not been published anywhere before. They’re confronting, even now, so don’t scroll any further if the sight of blood upsets you.
(I’m not including these images here because they’re upsetting but they’re here in the original post).
In my opinion, at least, the images remain startlingly, strikingly moving. I debated publishing them at the time, and decided not to. It seemed like running them could be seen as exploitative or sensationalist, and as an editor, I had never dealt like a situation like the death of a musician that many people — myself included — loved and respected. The last thing I wanted was to be a distraction, or create an unnecessary controversy.
But now I wish I had had the courage to run them, and I’m glad they’re finally seeing the light of day— because to me, at least, they’re a stark depiction of Rowland’s will to live, and his determination to work until the last. To make up for the wasted years. They capture just how intent he had been on dragging his fragile body onto the stage one last time, to play these songs of which he was so proud.
Of how hard it must have been. And of how he did it anyway.