This is graciously reposted with permission from the Rowland S. Howard Tribute page
The tribute page would like to extend our huge and grateful thanks to Genevieve McGuckin for taking the time to pore over and answer these questions in such carefully chosen words and fascinating detail. We have had such a huge response to this Q+A and we are thrilled that we were able to share this with you. Thank you so much for putting your heart into this, dear Genevieve.
This q&a would never have happened without the help of Genevieve’s (and our) friend, Melbourne musician Wade Black. He put us in touch with Genevieve and helped with the Q+A and we are forever grateful to him. Thanks Wade 🙂 Victoria and Paul
please do not share elsewhere without permission
I’d like to express my respect for your musical creativity. I’m very happy because I was able to get a new CD I’m Never Gonna Die Again, access is only a few copies. I’m a big fan of the whole Rowland’s oeuvre, and especially my beloved band These Immortal Souls because of amazing alchemical blend of his guitar sound and your’s keyboards. Since myself playing the piano and I have some musical education, I would ask you about your musical preferences. What you are creating now? I think too little is known about female music artist and authors of the band The Birthday Party and These Immortal Souls, where you have left a strong mark on the music. – Andreja Azber from Slovenia, Europe.
Why thank you Andreja. You’re lucky – I don’t own my own copy of Never Gonna Die Again these days. (There were once 2 in my household but both were sadly pilfered by light-fingered visitors.) I loved playing in T.I.S. and only wish I had known better how good we were at the time. The first gig got rave reviews but the UK press weren’t very kind, and we felt under-rated or out of sync with whatever was attracting praise then. (Guitar bands with 4 letter names). Thank God for mainland Europe. They ‘got’ us, turned up in edifying numbers, and treated us very well. It felt like super-stardom in comparison.
My musical preferences? Very similar to Rowland’s…. hence our joy at finding each other. In 1971 my dad started taping the only decent radio show in Australia. It was called Room To Move with Chris Winter, and was on way past my bedtime. He himself preferred classical music, old black blues, and less noisy songwriters like Leonard Cohen, but thought me and my sisters might like the show’s music. We did. Thanks to Dad, I was steeped in stuff like early Bowie, Eno, the Velvet Underground, and Leonard Cohen from an early age. We woke up to Eric Satie music or Jacques Brel, and danced ourselves stupid to ‘Trash’. (Not at all dad’s thing) I was a Brisbane girl, saw the Saints in ’73 and loved them too. Dad hadn’t been able to learn an instrument himself, so encouraged us to play.
I left home at just 16, and discovered more to like along the way. I think my fate was sealed when Rowland first came up to my strange old boat-shaped flat and spied Marquee Moon. Along with records like Satie, Lotte Lenya singing Kurt Weill & Bertolt Brecht, Pattie Smith, Iggy Pop, Eno, Kraftwerk, Talking Heads, and Pere Ubu. (30 Seconds Over Tokyo), which he hadn’t heard. (I was so relieved he didn’t know everything!)
I guess I prefer music that has grit, as well as heart, that moves, inspires and has some indefinable truth about it. I like to be surprised, hypnotized, to lose myself in the listening. I even like to dance. I remain stubbornly unimpressed by virtuosity for the sake of it, or things overly cerebral.
I agree too little is known about the female talents around the BP, but then it’s still very much a man’s world, no? I don’t know if it’s that women are somehow deemed less cool (?), but they do seem to have to try harder or be more outstanding to be taken as seriously. Once in London, it was difficult for us to make the most of our own various creative impulses. The best musicians we knew were ‘taken’, and survival consumed us.
Anita and I did contribute words, titles, editing prowess etc., to Nick and Rowl, respectively, but that’s never enough. At least Anita has albums out there. It’s a thorn in my side that 99% of my music has been heard only by Rowland, the cat, or my bedroom furniture. I did start rehearsing with Conrad Standish and Tom Carlyon 10 years ago but pulled the plug when I realized they expected ME to sing! It’s a bugger being a songwriter who can’t/won’t/sing.And yes. I do intend to fix that. Hopefully before I’m 66.
I’m playing at All Tomorrow’s Parties in October. Songs from These Immortal Souls and Rowland’s solo albums, played by the likes of me, Harry, Craig Williamson, JP Shilo. Mick Harvey and Brian Hooper. Harry, JP, and Conrad and Jonnine Standish will do the vocals. (I won’t!) We go on right before Television…Rowland would die!
Your eulogy for Rowland left a deep impression on me and I have gone back to YouTube several times just to listen to it. It was a privilege to hear your personal memories. Likewise I cherished your anecdotes in Autoluminescent. You are a magnificent raconteur. Have you considered writing a memoir ? I would love to learn more about your life, music and experiences. – Stella Kosenius
You’re very kind Stella… I’m glad someone can bear to witness the eulogies. I can’t… they do my head in. A memoir? Yes! I’d prefer to write a fearless one, unconstrained by who might feel what… so I may have to wait until a few more people are dead. (?)
There are millions of great stories, but life has thrown me a few curve balls so I have much to catch up upon. 2014 might be the year. Rowland was always urging me to write a book about my own life (not ours), but I guess he will definitely figure in it.
P.S. The long, emotionally draining struggle to get Autoluminescent right played havoc with my health and peace of mind. I had to explain the real man, his history, sift through possessions, writings, photos. They taped me talking for days on end, there was much to fight for and inevitable conflict. (I abhor conflict.)
The interviews were a doddle in comparison. It was too soon – I was still reeling from the disappearance of my best friend and house-mate. Old wounds itched, vast amounts of my own stuff was scanned or filmed (largely un-used)… the film eventually got there… but the process left me feeling kind of plundered and vulnerable. I still don’t feel quite right in my world, and even this simple Q&A isn’t easy. It seems Rowland and I are still a bit cigarettes and coca-cola…
What was Rowland’s opinion on Nick’s work and general attitude after The Birthday Party split!? – Skip Snyder
R’s opinions were sharply honed affairs, backed up by much Rowland-reason, but the short answer is: complicated, multi-faceted, but not without grace. Long Answer: Music-wise he best liked Bad Seeds songs that had a definite groove eg. Tupelo, Red Right Hand, The Mercy Seat, Stagger Lee, etc, their amazing rhythmic momentum.
He liked some early stuff, and Let Love In, then not much until Abbatoir Blues. He thought Nick prone to ‘hamming it up’ in the ballads, so wasn’t as taken with them. Grinderman: He deemed Nick’s guitar playing ’hilarious’, was amused to see him be ‘more teenage’, but thought the songs weren’t anywhere near as memorable.
He also appreciated some of Nick‘s soundtrack music, (and very kindly commented once that elements of the piano reminded him of me)…. He was all at sea after the BP split, feeling he’d lost his friends as well as a band. I believe that the latter-day BP tension required a scapegoat, and Rowl was it. It was impossible for him to be relaxed or charming in the midst of the unspoken but ill-concealed hostility. Rowland was a perceptive being, and well knew that once such a target, it was impossible to shine. Everything you did became tainted.
It became bloody awkward, a bit nasty, and in the best of all worlds, was unnecessary. He was also bemused by the opinions Nick and Mick were expressing at the time about his playing. That it was self-indulgent; that he just made a whole lot of noise all over everything. I listen to Jennifer’s Veil, even the Deep in the Woods lead break and there’s actually a lot of space. The notes and chords are exactly where they should be, the sounds he makes add to Nick’s vocals, emphasizing emotion, rather than obscuring it.
When he does let go…he might spin to the edge of chaos, but never completely falls in. Even his noisiest feedback had heart, rhythm, and some bones of structure. (Rowland loved keeping tension in music…and perhaps surprisingly, loathed the notion of ‘rocking out’.)
He also couldn’t help but notice that The Bad Seeds never once offered These Immortal Souls a support. It’s all ancient history and irrelevant now; he went on to do great things, but it did cut him for a while.
As a band mate to Rowland in The Immortal Souls, where do you see your influences in that particular project? Was the main creative force behind the band Rowland and/or did the other members including yourself make your influences known into the type of music you played? – George Cooper
Eek. Such hard questions!
Although Rowland wrote most of the songs and had a definitive vision about the music, he thought we were all unique musicians and stressed that everybody in the band was as important, and brought things into the mix entirely their own. We all contributed some words &/or music, wrote our own parts, definitely played our own way.
If Rowland didn’t like something however, he did make it known, and could be an intimidating presence. Some arrangements were very involved, and with one quirk of an eyebrow, he could make you feel pretty stupid. I found rehearsals strange… he’d be so sweet and encouraging at home, but once there, it was all business. He did not enjoy rehearsing! Maybe he didn’t need to… but the rest of us did. The influences I brought are hard to pin down. The strangely simple melodies perhaps a mix of Satie and some dreamworld five year old girl who could only use a few fingers. The louder piano: I don’t know. I really enjoyed interplaying with his guitar in my tinky way. Playing live was wonderful. (Usually.)
Hello Genevieve. Thank you so much for doing this. I’d like to ask you what it was like for you when you first arrived in the UK? You and the band and the girlfriends were living together in a different country with little money, was it very difficult? What was it like touring with the Birthday Party? Rowland famously disliked London but what are your memories of that time? We’re so glad that you are enjoying the page. – Victoria, RSH Tribute Page admin
Please forgive me for not getting this finished sooner. Heartfelt gratitude to you and Paul for your dedication to keeping Rowland’s spirit alive, well, and in the public eye. I really don’t know how you have the time, but am hugely appreciative that you do, and that you do it so well! Rowland would be truly chuffed! x
Arriving in London was rather like being hit in the face with a limp fish. We’d had high hopes… surely everything (music, people, life itself) must be bigger better and more sophisticated… the possibilities endless. Our group of friends had all found each other in a relatively short space of time in Melbourne, and in that rarified little circle, good things seemed to happen without too much effort.
I guess we imagined we’d hop off the plane, go to a few gigs and somehow meet nearly everyone we found interesting. They’d really like us, we’d hang out, swap ideas, go to parties, and life would continue to be entertaining and enthralling. Meanwhile we’d explore all the places we’d only read about in books or seen in films. Instead we found ourselves living literally on top of each other, 9 of us in a 1 BR flat, broke, cold and wretchedly hungry.
The reality of the music scene was disappointing without the glamour of distance, and we either didn’t want to meet everyone we’d imagined, or else, were completely dismissed as barbarian colonials. Life was pretty damn bad. I remember Rowland and I hoping to be unnoticed as we picked up battered old vegetables that had fallen from market stalls. Invisibility wasn’t one of Rowland’s superpowers however and we’d inevitably end up being pelted with potatoes as we fled irate cockney barrow boys. Not exactly fat to begin with, we became far too thin, waxily translucent… and poor Rowland came down with malnutrition.
The doctor was so alarmed by our state, he tucked the fee back in my pocket and drove us straight to a grocery store. (Soon afterwards I nicked my first apple… but that’s the start of a whole different story.) As for the ‘girlfriends’, I like to believe we were a pretty strong and talented lot in our own right. But, once in London, penniless, and away from everything else that had sustained us, our lives were beset by the struggle to just survive. Things like paint and pianos were out of the question, we no longer had our own little kingdoms, and without other outlets, our energies were increasingly directed into whatever the boys were doing. I guess our own dreams bit the dust for a while (or died of malnutrition?).
When we recorded Some Velvet Morning I hadn’t been near a piano for 2 ½ years! Rents had been cheap in St Kilda, the buildings eccentric, charming and no matter how inner-city tumble-down, nature was always evident. Rowland and I (‘though often on the brink of penury) lived in a huge dilapidated 3 BR flat with oak paneling, leadlight windows, a huge balcony and a fig tree. The streets were lined with enormous liquid amber trees, fences and balconies overgrown with vines. The food was tasty, thanks to the largely East-European refugee inhabitants, and the sky was big.
I thought London houses resembled tombstones…the sky was small, the food mainly white and yellow and tasteless, and English people were proving difficult to get to know in any depth. I remember thinking they’d grown invisible shields to defend themselves from the sheer mass of humanity. Even so there was no shortage of great moments. Nearly everyone could be pretty damn funny, and we did explore London. I felt more human after we’d found our own tiny bed-sit, and the boys began to get gigs. London didn’t know it yet, but there was something about them…a kind of lurching charismatic momentum. I felt exultant watching them play! They were all great, but I was dead proud of Rowland. He was brilliant, his playing growing ever more astonishing…I probably would’ve gone to Beta Centauri with him if he’d wanted. Touring with the Birthday Party? Hmmm. That was like a trip to Alpha Centauri…indescribable. Exciting, exhilarating, hilarious, horribly drunk, and inevitably exhausting.
I’d just like to say that you are so sweet and such an adorable lovely little lady and that your piano playing in These Immortal Souls delights me. You also helped to write Silver Chain which is one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard. The way you express yourself about Rowland is so wonderful and moving. I hope someday I can have a friendship like the one you shared with him. Do you have a favorite TIS song you recorded? I also remember you saying that you and Rowly would be up until wee hours of the night laughing. Do you have a funny story you could share with us?
Oh Megan you’re too kind. Thank you. I’m sure you will find such a friend. It’s impossible to do justice to our 4am laughing fits, or to relate in words exactly what did make us so amused. Suffice to say neither of us had lost the art of playing like children and were not afraid to make utter idiots of ourselves. We’d wake up relaxed after a couple of hours sleep, have tea and toast, or ice-cream, and soon end up in convulsions on the floor.
It had to do with all sorts of things: made-up words, stories, our collection of strange characters, and inanimate friends, our absurdly entertaining cat. Rowland was so funny it made me funny too. We also had an imaginary magazine called Split Level Fish. We’d conduct pretend interviews with people we knew, and absolutely delight in umm… much irreverence etc. Not translatable. Favourite These Immortals Souls song? Probably Crowned as I absolutely loved playing it live.
“Silver Chain” is one of my favorite collaborations between Genevieve and Rowland…when did they begin composing this together? I’d be interested to hear any memories she may have regarding the birth of this tune. – Heather Hendrix Russell
I was playing piano one cold Kilburn night when Rowland yelled from the kitchen. “Gen! What’s that? It’s good – for God’s sake tape it! ” I didn’t (tape it) but thus encouraged, finished the music after dinner. It didn’t go down well with Harry and Chris at rehearsal however… a whole song played on piano can sound too ‘pretty’.
I’d written some words about wearing out my welcome, health, reason and self… it had the first verse and the middle section, then I stalled. (Think I called it “A Ring Round My Heart” or some such). Rowland was flummoxed by my over-perfectionism; and believed I’d inherited it largely from my (beloved) dad. My refusal to sing and record my own songs could exasperate him, although he remained ever encouraging. He came up with the wonderful suggestion we make it into a duet.
He picked up my silver chain reference and wrote a chorus that just changed everything. I banned any duet notion, (it’s not the easiest melody) so he took out a pen and fashioned my verses into something simpler that he could sing. Our words had quite similar rhythms and imagery, but his were sublime. By the time “I stop singing”, he put sand in my river, and inserted the great lines “I turned to the needle. Heroin cure me…Let me sleep without dreaming. Heroin lied to me” (later toned down to the bottle on some producer’s advice. Fie!) It never came together well in T.I.S, so I’m very grateful he did the Teenage Snuff Film version.
What is your most beloved memory of Rowland? I think you’re an amazing musician and beautiful soul!! – Erin Custer
Aw shucks. Thanks. Umm. I have so many memories, some intensely personal, and can’t really pick one. I did love creeping around London streets at night, peering into people’s windows. We’d grin at each other thinking… “Would we live here? “Yes, definitely…”there?” “God No!” etc. Most of the houses chosen for future (fantasy) residence had a golden glow, all warm and cosy, the more book-lined the better. We also stole flowers from gardens. There was much giggling, some running. It was fun.
One of our most idyllic times was during the recording of Kiss You Kidnapped Charabanc. Rowland had a close male friend again. We were staying outside a tiny village, happy, healthy, well fed, and relaxed. We’d crunch across frosty green fields to get to the old church-cum-studio. It was surrounded by flowers. After a day of beautiful music, the three of us would walk back in pitch darkness… we hadn’t seen stars like that since home. One night this enormous red harvest moon appeared… it took up half the sky and we knew absolutely that we were on a planet… in a galaxy… in a universe… ah.
Thank you for answering our questions. I would like to ask who were some of the favourite poets/authors that you and Rowland shared? And if I could ask one more question? Did Rowland have a particular approach to song writing? Did he write lyrics and put them to music at a later stage, or would he write the music first and then get lyrical ideas? His songs are so beautifully crafted.
Greetings from Russia! We have a couple of questions for Genevieve. What were Rowland’s favorite books? Did he loved any particular culture (in the ethnic sense)? And last, did he loved the couscous with chicken, or not (from the Mirabel cookbook)? Most of all we are waiting for the answer to the first question, because we’ve heard, that Rowland was a real bibliophile.. Thank you very much! – Mahnovskaya Alice
Ah yes. Rowland and books. He just could not have existed without them… they were a major inspiration. He loved finding them reading them, lending them and talking about them. The look of pure glee on his face when I’d say I’d run short of reading material. He’d scout around the house, long limbs a-reaching then pile 10 or 12 into my arms; one for every possible level of amusement, entertainment and literary edification. His enthusiasm was contagious.
Where do I start? When we met we’d both already read a lot of the more obvious candidates, what some people refer to as the classics, and Kafka, Joyce, Conrad, some of those Russians. We shared a love of stuff like Catcher in the Rye, The Night of the Hunter, Faulkner, Steinway, Oscar Wilde and Poe. He introduced me to Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, I introduced him to Raymond Radiguet, Raymond Queneau, Boris Vian and on we went to Celine, Alain Fournier, Cendrars. French new wave and surrealists, and anything German Expressionist.
We both loved The Master and Margherita by Michael Bulgakov, Wiseblood by Flannery O’Connor, Foxfire by Joyce Carol-Oates, some Martin Amis, like London Fields, Teeth, Time’s Arrow, SuperCannes by J.G Ballard, Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury, Cormac McCarthy, some Murakami, Winter’s Bone By Daniel Woodrell, and War Cries Over Avenue C by Jerome Charyn.Rowland delighted in a good crime novel (books he believed would stand up in any genre.)
He despised “genre snobbery’ and thought it caused too many to miss out on too much. He devoured Jim Thompson, Jerome Charyn, Chester Himes, Nelson Algren, Derek Raymond, David Peace, Pete Dexter, Jake Arnott, James Ellroy, David Simon, and the French feame writer Fred Vargas, etc. Over the years this would be interspersed with umpteen boxes of strange sci-fi (we’re not talking America takes over outer space here) but rather those Russian Strutgatsky Bros etc, Neuromancer, and huge tomes of more disposable horror by the likes of Peter Straub, Clive Barker, Anne Rice et al. Ha! I remember him being very cross I lost some book called Dream No 9 by David Mitchell, because he’d read it and I hadn’t so we couldn’t talk about it. He loved reading about historical figures like Byron and Shelley, and “The Stress of Her Regard”. By Tim Powers. He enjoyed the historian turned writer Peter Ackroyd, Quicksilver and Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson, Child Across The Sky and Bones of the Moon by Jonathan Carroll, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay by Michael Chabon, the Cornelius Quartet by Michael Moorcock, City of Saints and Sinners by Jeff Vandermeer, House of Leaves by Mark Z Danielewski. And a very odd book called Throat Sprockets. God this is a mere skerrick… Well I guess it’s a start.
Poetry? We’d shared an appreciation of Yevtushenko as young teenagers (blush), but Rowland didn’t pour over tomes of poetry. He’d consumed Rimbaud and Baudelaire along the way, but was more likely to be carrying an obscure Korean comic than The Flowers of Evil. He found poetry everywhere. And wrote it without trying.
Particular culture? Cajun, and all things Louisiana. I do remember him reading volumes about Voodoo while writing Etceteracide. He was intrigued by mixed-up cultures that had morphed to adapt to new paradigms or surrounds. He had a yen for some obscure hill tribes in Laos and Cambodia. Song writing? Rowland’s approach to song writing was dead simple and became more so as time went on, so this won’t be much help. Sometimes the music came first, particularly with big riff type songs, and the feel would inspire the subject. Other times he’d scribble (elegantly) away, produce more words than needed, then pare down. Head around the door, eyebrow raised in a kind of sheepishly hopeful inquiry: ““Gen…can you read something for me? Then “what exactly do you think I’m trying to say?” It was usually so obvious… I found it hard to believe he didn’t know! Then he’d pick up his guitar, disappear into another room, and the music would just seem to happen.
Rowland either wrote or didn’t… there were times when he didn’t even try, but when he did, he didn’t need to labor over the process. The only exception being T.I.S. songs where the arrangements could be hellishly complex. Even then, the sequences might take time for Harry Epic and I to grasp but made absolute sense to Rowland. He was inspired by much, but it was his own intense emotions that got him writing the most lyrics. Love loss heartbreak.
Being in the studio had an amazingly focusing effect. So did being drug-free. He could write more in a few days than he had in ages. Songs like Autoluminescent and Ave Maria would erupt almost fully formed in beautiful big bursts of inspiration. That recipe? I don’t know how much he loved it but he certainly made it a lot. More latterly with preserved lemons. Rowland never made much money at all, and chicken and cous-cous were cheap and nourishing.
Question for Ms. McGuckin: of the songs TIS performed that never got officially recorded, are there any that she really regrets never getting to record/release? – Gorgonetta Gorgo
Yes Ms Gorgon, (What a prepossessing name you have there!) A song called panic Moon, which we started playing live around 94. It was one of Rowland’s huge multi-dimensional precision-arranged numbers…8 minutes of thumping bass, great groove riff, much heart, fantastically poignant words (about finding a murdered woman), and some childish piano on top. It was as much fun to play as Crowned and I miss it terribly.
Dear Genevieve, what was it like being the only woman in These Immortal Souls? – Jennie Wilmoth
Not too bad. Rowland and Harry were not exactly sexist, and Epic was just plain awkward with women. The divisions within the band were otherwise, eg. the couple and the others, the brothers and the others, but I remember feeling less effortlessly cool sometimes. Piano in bands was definitely not in fashion and I was wary of it sounding “pretty’. I also wished I was taller… I felt minuscule on stage with those towering Howards.
The sexism came from everywhere else: promoters, roadies, producers that wouldn’t let me find my own piano sounds in the studio, American tour drivers, etc ad infinitum. Particularly in America, I was forever having stage-hands sticking microphones in front of me, or trying to stop me plugging in my own DI box and pedals. Hell…I’d probably blow them up! Such stuff drove me bananas. I’d wish I could pick up Rowl’s guitar and blow them all away with some enormously aggressive (but brilliant) noise.
Another question for Genevieve. I’m a cello player in a band, and have trouble sometimes with over-playing, doing too much when less is called for. Just wondering if she ever encountered a similar problem, and if so, how did she go about training herself to play so effectively “in the pocket”, so to speak. – Joel Lawson
Hi Joel. I am in love with the cello. It’s an instrument that makes your very bones vibrate and can apparently hypnotize animals. Wish I could play it. Glad you think I play “in the pocket”. Yes, encountered in Some Velvet Morning. I play all over the place, probably because it was the first time I’d been in a studio. Less is More is dead simple though. Just really listen and imagine what would be great for the song; what you’d most like to hear in it yourself. I find that if you listen to the other instruments, melodies and rhythms suggest themselves. Play parts that enhance and interact and don’t be afraid to not play. Music needs silence and space, and when your cello does come back in, it will sound even more beautiful. Ha! Giving advice is much easier than taking it. Can I hear something of yours?
Thank you so much for agreeing to do this Genevieve. There has been such an outpouring of affection for you on the page since we announced your Q and A, which goes to show the place you hold in the hearts and minds of people across the world. My question is; how do you view your time creating music? Was it a way of creating art or, deepdown, do you have a dirty rock n roll heart? – Paul, RSH Tribute Page admin
Everyone has been so sweet. So thank you all exponentially, for your words and interest, and for loving Rowland and his work as much as you so obviously do. It means much. I wish he knew. Ha! I have to go with the dirty rock ’n roll heart, Paul. But then, heart is heart, and mine has a definite emotional and aesthetic bent. Rock music does need to come partly from some profound and unthinking part of your soul. I think if you do what you love, and try to do it well and with honesty, the art bit can just happen. I would have liked to play things that were beautifully barbaric but I don’t believe I ever achieved that. Rowland did. The artist tag belongs to him.
Hi Genevieve, Hello from Dunedin, NZ.
Two questions: 1) Did you get on ok with Jane Usher and Bianca Murray? 2) Is there any particular object of Rowland’s that you now have that is particularly special to you and makes you think “I’m glad I’ve got that”? (e.g a book, knick-knack, shirt, etc) – Grant McDougall
In the nicest possible way Grant, I’m refusing to answer that first query. On the grounds of privacy, relevance, and my sneaking suspicion you mightn’t ask a man that kind of question. No harm done… curiosity is good, but we need some mystery.
Yes! A poignant little blue plastic creature, about a foot high, called Icebat. Much loved and endowed with superpowers, Icebat was prone to travel to parallel universes and far flung lands while we slept. He looks so gleeful he always makes me smile. Item 2. A silky rag that was once a fine black, dark red, and gold shirt. I found it for Rowland in late ’78, and sewed little gold crowns onto the collar. He wore it to death, and when the cuffs got too ragged, ripped the arms off and wore it some more. I found it when I moved recently – it still smells very faintly of RSH and tho’ I don’t look at it much, I’ll never give it up.
Please ask Gen if Rowland’s unfinished writings will ever be published. – Mehran Azma
Yes, most definitely. It would be criminal not to. They are simply astounding. The major problem has been his tendency to Save As… myriad versions, different chapters, written in a now-defunct program, on a pre-system 9 Mac, and sorting by date doesn’t work either. He didn’t make it easy. Fear not: all this is surmountable, and they will be released upon the world.
1. One of my all time favourite gigs was These Immortal Souls at Glasgow Cathouse, shortly after the second album. I recall there was a promotional mix up, and the gig was omitted from the venue advertising posters. This was a great shame as the few people that were lucky enough to find out about it witnessed a truly inspired gig. The memory of those songs, so beautifully played, will live with me forever. I would like to ask what were your favourite TIS gigs, and was touring an enjoyable experience as a whole, or did the band prefer writing and recording in the studio?
2. These Immortal Souls released two great albums, and the legacy and beauty of the songs contained within will last for generations. What are your own favourites from each?
3. It is well documented that when The Birthday Party and friends relocated to London they were generally disillusioned with the British music scene at that time. Were there any notable exceptions, i.e., were there any British bands that yourself or Rowland enjoyed?- Lawrence Conway
God Lawrence I remember that night… we were put up by a sweet Glaswegian couple, and 8 or 9 of us slept in the poor people’s lounge room, (Nikki Sudden supported us?) I remember the lounge room better than the gig but I’m pleased we made a good impression. Sometimes when no one much turns up, some contrary part of your soul inspires you to play even better.
1. My own favourite gigs were the very first one, supporting Sonic Youth at the Mean Fiddler in London, Ebensee and Linz in 88, San Francisco and LA the same year, Heidelberg and Vienna in 94, and the last (deafening) show in ’98. I loved touring… so much so I’d get face-ache from grinning. Recording was usually troublesome and exhausting so we definitely preferred playing, and I believe we were better live than on record.
Touring mainland Europe was the best. We were treated well, fed well, met good people and got to play every night. Rowland and I loved hotels, waking up to coffee and breakfast, and being away from London. However, Rowland would have much preferred to simply “jaunt” between places (ie. magically arrive) and not suffer such long hours in the “wan” (so dubbed due to German-accented tour managers). He didn’t have an iron constitution and the lack of sleep and hours of singing meant he was often fighting throat infections. We’d exhaust ourselves, but arriving home felt even more surreal. Our tours had their fair share of bizarre occurrences… but I’ve already said far too much.
2. From Marry Me (Lie Lie): I ate the Knife and (at present) Hide. Never Gonna Die Again: Crowned, Black Milk, Hyperspace… Hell, I like them all.
3. Alas, very little. New Romanticism was starting to rear its frilly head and that was… disturbing. We did really love The Fall and The Pop Group.
A question for Ms. Genevieve: how might you, from your unique perspective, describe Rowland’s songwriting/lyric writing process? What kinds of stuff inspired him most? Many sincere thanks for your time and consideration, and all my heartfelt best to you and yours! – Lester Salvador
Thanks so much Lester. It’s a good question but I think I’ve mostly covered it above. His work was largely autobiographical, he wrote from his heart, from his own unique perspective. The love songs usually contain barbs and I love them more for that. He professed to being an emotional cripple (pah!) and said all those incredible guitar sounds were the only way he could express emotions that defied language.
Question for Gen: Are you planning on returning to the stage any time soon? – Nil
Apart from the Crown Prince of the Crying Jag gig at ATP, I haven’t got anything planned, but yes, Nil, I hope so. I miss playing too much.
Hi RSH Tribute Page, I’d like to ask to Genevieve if there was a song (or more than one) that rowland was more proud of. Both from all his project, BP included. – Marco Piscopo
Most proud? Hard to say. He never stopped being proud of his teenage output in The Young Charlatans. The songs were all so memorable. Despite the lack of recordings, they often whirl around in my head. Also much of his guitar playing in the Birthday Party. His lovely slidey songs in Kiss You Kidnapped Charabanc (and Snowplough, which comes in at the end if you keep listening. That always got a chuckle out of him.) In These Immortal Souls, Crowned (I think.). But by the end, particular pride was reserved for Exit Everything, Autoluminescent, Ave Maria, (I Know) a Girl called Johnny, and that beautiful death cry: Golden Age of Bloodshed.
Where did you & Rowland live in West Berlin? Can you tell me where did exactly the concert scene in “Wings of Desire” took place? Did Rowland wrote “Dead Radio” about you and your relationship? Every time I listen to it, I picture you both and I don’t know why. So I was wondering. Otherwise, do you know what is it about? Why did you never sing a duet with Rowland? (For example the cover of “Some Velvet Morning”) What were the professional and personal relationship between Rowland and Blixa? – Hélène Nigoghossian
Berlin? Mostly in Dresdener Str, near Kotbusser Tor, Kreuzberg. (On the floor or the couch at Die Haut’s warehouse) and for less time, in Eisenacher Str, Schoneberg (more bourgie)
Wings of Desire? No I can’t remember, but Harry will. Come in Harrison?
Dead Radio? I feel uncomfortable attributing Rowland’s songs to myself, but this I do know. We were doing our complicated thing, sharing a place despite having broken up, and one day in ’95 he said: ”Gen… I’m writing this song and it’s got a line about tetracycline overdose, but please… don’t get upset!” (I’d had an antibiotic overdose as a baby, which affected my teeth). Me: “Should I be upset? Is it about me?” Answer: “Yes… well… yes, it is… but it’s also a mixture”. (‘what to ignite….’?) From the horse’s mouth.
Duets? Because I’m an idiot to myself, Helene. (It drove Rowland mad that I didn’t sing my own songs, let alone anyone else’s. He’d say it was all about confidence, and anyway, I could sing, he’d heard me. I disagreed… wanted my voice to be stronger and rounder. What I heard in my mind and what came out were rather disparate. Sorry Rowland!
Blixa? Like most of us, Rowland was intrigued by Blixa. He thought Neubauten were fantastic, and I remember him being tickled pink by Blixa’s singing of Kylie’s part in Where The Wild Roses Grow. (Zehr homo-erotic.) Once we’d left Berlin, there was mutual respect, they’d chat backstage sometimes, but they didn’t really spend a lot of time together.