"Steve Davis said, I saw you play, I really enjoyed it": Napalm Death's Shane Embury on playing Glastonbury, bonding with snooker legend Steve Davis and the Dave Grohl grindcore jam that sadly never came to pass

Napalm Death onstage at Glastonbury Festival, June 22, 2017
(Image credit: Will Ireland/Metal Hammer Magazine/Future via Getty Images)

Shane Embury had only ever attended one Glastonbury festival before Napalm Death were invited to become the first grindcore band to play the Worthy Farm site in the summer of 2017. That was in 1989, and, as the bassist reveals in his forthcoming memoir Life.....? and Napalm Death, it was a memorable weekend for reasons which had nothing to do with who headlined the Pyramid Stage that year.

"Napalm's singer at the time, Lee Dorrian, had given me the task of babysitting the Japanese band S.O.B.," Embury recalls. "There were just two problems. One was that someone had given me a joint the week before, and I'd done some stupid jump and fucked my leg. The second problem was that S.O.B. had all dropped acid. My main memory is of them leaping over these hippies' bonfires. So my first Glastonbury was spent limping around, in charge of this Japanese hardcore band off their nuts on LSD."

By comparison, Embury recalls that his second visit to Britain's largest music festival "wasn't as chaotic". After years of largely shunning metal bands - "the organizers seemed to be a bit sniffy about certain kinds of metal and hardcore" the bassist notes - in 2017 Glastonbury invited Earache Records to curate its own stage at the festival, The Earache Express, a a tube carriage (or two) built into a metal structure in Shangri-La. Booking Napalm Death for the weekender was, Embury acknowledges, "a pretty big deal".... and the day was a triumph for the grindcore veterans, save for one slight disappointment.

"The Foo Fighters were headlining," Embury writes, "and I heard that they wanted us to play on the same day as them [June 22] so that Dave Grohl could come down and get onstage with us during our set. I'd met Dave years before when Nirvana played the Hummingbird in Birmingham, and much later Lee Dorrian had appeared on a record by Grohl's side project, Probot. I don't know how close it came to happening, or even if it was only rumour, but for whatever reason it never materialized. It's a shame, though I'd still love to do something with Dave Grohl at some point."

This minor point aside, the bassist remembers Glastonbury having "a great vibe" and was chuffed to see that his band draw "a massive crowd."

He continues: "At one point afterwards, I remember talking to the snooker player Steve Davis, who was there to do a techno DJ set with a guy I know named Kavus Torabi. Steve Davis said, 'I saw you play, I really enjoyed it.' He's a massive fan of crazy prog rock, so we ended up chatting about that. That was pretty surreal - I'm talking to this guy who I watched playing snooker on the telly in the 80s about Napalm Death and Magma."

"It was great that Glastonbury asked Napalm Death to play, but I don't think it should have taken so long for them to put on a band like us," Embury concludes. "It's easy to marginalize this kind of music because it's extreme, but it's as relevant as anything else out there."

Life.....? and Napalm Death will be published by Rocket 88 on October 3, and is available now to pre-order.

And you can watch a clip of Napalm Death at Glastonbury 2017 below:

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.