There’s nothing that mums are better at doing than being super chuffed about their kids’ successes. It’s true; they’re just so stoked on us kids at all times. But what about when your kid’s one of the most iconic rockstars of the last 30 years?
PEDESTRIAN.TV recently spoke to Virginia Hanlon Grohl, who you might know better as Dave Grohl‘s mum. Yep, this is the woman who birthed and raised the drummer of Nirvana who became the lead singer/frontman of the Foo Fighters. In true mum form, she still calls him David.
Virginia’s in town for the annual BIGSOUND festival and she’s just penned a book called From Cradle To Stage, where she interviewed the mums of huge artists like Beastie Boys’ Mike D, and the late Amy Winehouse, so we thought we’d turn the spotlight back on her and her relationship with Dave.
PTV: So, what was Dave like as a kid?
Virginia: He started entertaining as a very tiny child. Just making people laugh, being goofy and fun. So that’s David.
I had a hard time keeping up with him. I honestly remember one time in a department store going up on an escalator and realising that he was talking to some people who were going down as we sort of met in the middle and I thought, “Oh my God, I’ve got a politician on my hands here. He’s running for office or something.”
PTV: With his music, at what point did the light switch on in your head and realize that he was onto something really good?
V: He played the drums really early. Drums were hard for me to understand because they didn’t have tones and chords and that kind of thing. I guess it was when he started playing the guitar that I realised that he was very musical.
PTV: When Nirvana began to gain momentum, was there anything you were particularly worried about with Dave?
V: He had already been on tour with a punk band all through Europe and the [United] States. I didn’t know anything about Nirvana when he joined them; nobody knew who they were at that point. He had already lived through living in a van with a couple of other guys and living on the floors of friends in Europe and he wasn’t becoming a millionaire but he was happy. He had seen half the world and he was very happy so that was great.
PTV: Obviously with Nirvana, it ended in a pretty horrible way. How did you feel as a parent when Kurt Cobain passed away?
V: We were all devastated. David came home. We were in Virginia at the time and it had been a hard year. And it was a terrible ending and a horrible thing to happen to people so young. It took him a while to regroup and find himself and his music again. So it was one of the worst spans and we all stayed close and got through it.
PTV: Do you think that made him realise the importance of family and solidified him into a family-oriented person?
V: I think he already knew that. It changed him in certain ways. He learned a lot of lessons during his time with that band. And with the rapid rise to his stardom, he learned a lot about the way business is done. Nobody paid much attention to him while he was in Nirvana, the attention was always on Kurt. So he got to learn a lot, and he did. He absorbed a lot. There were a lot of positives to come out of that town and a lot of music too of course. So we have to keep that in perspective now I think.
PTV: When Dave was creating a name for himself, how was his sister Lisa? How did she react to everything?
V: I used to worry about that. That it would be hard for her. Early on I think it might have been difficult and she would not tell people that she was his sister. She would not mention her last name or she would try to keep it a secret. She gets impatient with me because I might be in the grocery store and see someone with a Foo Fighters shirt and the immediately announce, “Oh, I happen to be the mother.”
PTV: [laughs] So you’re not ashamed to talk about it.
Oh, I’m shameless. But I think it is sometimes harder on the siblings than the other members of the family because everybody wants to know what their specialty is, and what their band is going to be and all of that. So it’s not easy I’m sure.
PTV: What’s life with Dave like now that’s he’s hit that highest point of rock stardom? Does he still make time for you?
V: Yeah, we live about 15-20 minutes away from each other and now he has three little girls. And he is also become, in the last year or so, a master barbecuer – he spends a lot of time thinking about meat. So most days he’ll call and say, “Brisket will be ready at five. Come early.” So we’re in the neighbourhood, so that’s nice.
PTV: That’s so sweet. Maybe that can be his next venture – going into barbecued meats.
V: I wouldn’t be surprised. He’s on I don’t know his fourth smoker now and it’s a really professional-grade one. He’s really, really good.
PTV: And just finally, what’s the best present that he’s ever given you?
V: Well one year, he took me on a Mother’s Day tour. He was with Foo Fighters then and they were doing a publicity tour of Europe. It was just the opposite of a rock tour because he would be working in the daytime and then have his evenings free. So during the daytime, I had London to myself. I could go to any museum or just walk around or do whatever.
Every night we would get wined and dined by the record company people – we’d go to all the greatest restaurants and then we’d go off to the next city and do the same. We ended up at the Cannes Film Festival, where they played on the beach. So I just had the time of my life.
Oh and last year for my 80th birthday, he took me and his family, and my closest friends to Italy where we had a castle to ourselves for a week. How’s that for a birthday present?
(Ed’s note: Mum please don’t read this and suddenly realise how much of a terrible daughter I am.)