Read Lars Ulrich of Metallica's tribute speech to Michael Eavis

The drummer with 2014’s Glastonbury headliners paid tribute to the festival’s founding father at an awards ceremony in London – read what he had to say in full

In London on Monday night, Michael Eavis was the recipient of the 23rd Music Industry Trusts Award, given every year to honour a leading figure in the UK music industry.

Hosted by Glastonbury regular Jo Whiley, over 1200 guests attended the charity event at the Grosvenor House hotel, held in aid of Nordoff Robbins and the BRIT Performing Arts & Technology School. Coldplay, Paul McCartney and Dolly Parton were among those who paid tribute to the 79-year old festival founder on video, but presenting the award in person was Lars Ulrich of Metallica.

The drummer said he had flown in specially to London for the event, after he fell in love with Worthy Farm when his band headlined the festival this summer. Afterwards he handed the Guardian a copy of his speech, which is reproduced here in full, only minus several very funny ad-libs.

You know what?

Michael Eavis is the greatest rock star in England.

You know why?

Because he’s not trying to be.

Michael Eavis is the centrepiece of the Glastonbury festival.

And the Glastonbury festival is the centrepiece of British music culture and the centrepiece of the British music year.

So by definition, since Michael Eavis is the centrepiece of the Glastonbury festival, he’s the greatest rock star in England, primarily because he doesn’t try.

And you know what, that’s the ultimate definition of cool.

Glastonbury is the least corporate festival you can play.

This is the festival that promotes autonomy, individuality, uniqueness, and which encourages independent thinking via free spirit approaches and esoteric thoughts. And it’s pretty clear to me that Glastonbury is much more than just a typical boots-in-the-mud festival.

It’s a state of mind.

It’s a cornerstone in people’s year.

And it’s a huge part of people’s lives.

Everybody wants to play Michael Eavis’s festival.

And the only way you get to play is quite simple; you have to be invited.

I have now experienced this first-hand myself, and I can attest to the fact that these are not two-way conversations that take place between representatives, between managers or between booking agents.

All roads lead through Michael Eavis and also his daughter Emily. And if they want to invite you to partake in the festivities they host each year, they will let you know.

Michael Eavis
Michael Eavis pictured with his dairy herd at Worthy Farm in 2014. Photograph: David Levene

As I touched upon earlier, the truest rock stars happen by default.

They don’t know.

They don’t seek.

They don’t chase

They just are.

It’s an instinct rather than an objective or a mission.

It’s something that happens, not something you create.

Every single piece of Glastonbury feels organic and incidental to me, and that’s what makes it stand out.

There is a refreshing lack of corporate attitudes, a welcome void of corporate approach.

The mindset that precedes the event is as pure and organic as the air at Worthy Farm itself, devoid of the clutches of commercialism, but abundant with a genuine feeling of togetherness and community.

I have played almost every single festival on this beautiful planet, and I can tell you that there’s no other experience like Glastonbury … both from a fan’s point of view and a musician’s point of view.

And every element of this uniqueness is a result of Michael Eavis’s approach … and every element of this uniqueness directly reflects his personality.

I can say all of this with conviction of course, because this year, something truly special happened in my life.

The band I’m in was invited by Michael and Emily, to play the festival.

I never in a million years imagined that would happen.

I thought it was beyond our reach, and after a decade of hope I had finally come to peace with that.

When asked about it, I would profess my desire to visit, or perform, on the hallowed grounds of Worthy Farm, yet I had truly given up on it leading to an appearance.

But lo and behold, this year, news filtered back to me that Michael and Emily were finally interested.

I never asked why and I never questioned it.

How exactly it happened I’ll never know, and I guess I’d prefer not to, but I can look each and every one of you in the eye and tell you that it was categorically the least conventional “music business” approach to landing a festival slot that I’ve ever been a part of.

Fast forward to the Friday of the festival …

My gang and I made the trip to the site the day before our band was due to play, and it wasn’t long before word got back that Michael had invited us to come be his guests in “the ribbon tower” and enjoy the sunset. Unfortunately, one thing led to another, led to another and it was soon clear to us that we wouldn’t make the tower in time for dusk. So basically from 8.30 on, my primary mission was to find Michael Eavis, one out of 300,000 people, a bit like looking for a needle in a haystack, except it wasn’t really like a needle in a haystack, because this man is the absolute epicentre of the festival. And wherever he is, wherever he moves, whatever space he’s occupying, that’s where the magnetic field is at its strongest.

So there we were schlepping around in our old school Land Rover looking for the man, when all of a sudden, without fanfare or fireworks, there he was, about 20 feet from us, standing casually up against a fence, the unwilling, but undeniable centre of attention.

Michael is a peculiar mixture of big and small (and I don’t just mean physically!) … he is the living human embodiment of everything this festival encompasses, the unique combination of humility and purity mixed with the fact that for this one weekend every year, he is the most powerful man in England.

I was about a second and a half into my encounter with him when I realised he had greeted me like an old, long lost friend, like someone with whom I had shared many late night beverages and tall tales.

I instantly felt completely at home, and at ease, in his company.

He was totally unassuming and yet there I was, standing with the person who was directly responsible for me standing in that very spot.

Well I must admit, a part of me, felt just about as tall as the wellies I was wearing during our 10-minute exchange of pleasantries.

I must further confess that I spent a large part of the weekend obsessed with the phenomenon of Glastonbury itself.

The idea that 40 weeks a year there is no trace of this weekend on these fields. 40 weeks a year there’s a family of farmers that live and work here like many other farming families in England.

When I was driving, or walking, around the site, I would occasionally get within eyeshot of the actual livestock, or the working elements of the farm. On one side of me was a crowd of roughly 175,000 people. On the other side of me was a fully functioning, working farm, each of these “worlds” living in total harmony next to each other.

Michael Eavis Emily Eavis
Festival family … Michael Eavis and his daughter Emily. Photograph: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Absolutely priceless.

And in my travels, absolutely unprecedented.

Michael Eavis’s story has been so well documented over the years, and has obviously enjoyed the same treatment this evening. In a nutshell – local farmer and landowner goes to a festival, becomes inspired to do his own, and accidentally starts what will become the biggest gathering of people based around music the world sees on a regular basis every year.

Remember … there is no truer recipe for rock-stardom than the word “accidental”.

“Accidental” is the central ingredient in true rock-stardom, because the minute too much ‘thought’ goes into it, you’ve already lost.

Things become contrived and cerebral.

It becomes a “product” and not a state of mind.

And what Michael Eavis represents is the purist definition of a state of mind.

Glastonbury is a place you go to physically of course, but ultimately, it represents a state of mind.

The hard copy of Lars Ulrich's speech for Michael Eavis.
The hard copy of Lars Ulrich’s speech for Michael Eavis. Photograph: The Guardian

His state of mind.

All of which hopefully and finally explains why Micheal Eavis is the biggest rock star in Britain.

So when you see such noble human causes as Greenpeace or Water Aid represented at the festival, when you realize passionate political causes such as the Campaign For Nuclear Disarmament have been supported, and when you realise that the profits generated are given back to charities both national and local, you can see that Glastonbury has a uniquely human and genuinely selfless state of mind for a festival.

And remember the key to it all –

Michael Eavis.

Because Michael Eavis is Glastonbury.

And Glastonbury is Michael Eavis.

But guess what, for tonight, Michael Eavis is ours.

The doors have been locked from the outside.

And so I am EXTREMELY happy to announce that Michael Eavis is the “worthy” recipient of the 2014 Music Industry Trust Award.

Please give a warm welcome to Michael.

Michael Eavis accepts the Music Industry Trust Award 2014 from Lars Ulrich.
Michael Eavis accepts the Music Industry Trust Award 2014 from Lars Ulrich. Photograph: Ian Gavan/Getty Images


Caspar Llewellyn Smith

The GuardianTramp

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