Rowland S. Howard, an important figure in Australia’s underground rock scene who played guitar for the Boys Next Door and the Birthday Party, has lost his battle with liver cancer. He passed away this morning (Dec. 30) at the age of 50.

Howard is best remembered for his distinctive distorted guitar sounds and audio feedback, and for the alternative hit “Shivers” which he penned for the Boys Next Door, a Melbourne punk/goth band which he had formed in 1973 with Nick Cave.

The group’s style changed, and so did its name. By 1980, the band had evolved into the Birthday Party, whose raw blues-rock swagger and songs about religion, murder and madness endeared them to a global cult following. Howard’s distorted guitar work was a driving force.

Later, Howard would lend his skills to a raft of post-punk bands such as These Immortal Souls, Crime and The City Solution, and Honeymoon In Red, and he collaborated with the likes of Henry Rollins, Thurston Moore, Lydia Lunch and the late Nikki Sudden. Lunch and Moore covered Howard’s song “Still Burning," which appeared on the former’s 1984 album “In Limbo”.

Melbourne-based independent label Liberation Music on Oct. 16 released Howard’s critically-acclaimed second solo album “Pop Crimes,” the follow-up to 1999 album “Teenage Snuff Film.”

A string of rare live dates were announced in support of the album, including an appearance at the Dec. 5 “Homebake Festival” in Sydney. However, the artist canceled the festival show and a run of performances due to his illness. Howard had been waiting for a liver transplant when he lost his life.