Although neither of them are Canadian, Dave and Virginia Hanlon Grohl kicked off Mothers’ Day weekend onstage in Toronto, with the rock star giving his mother props for being a “cool mom” as part of the annual Canadian Music Week festival.
“I’m interviewing my mom, by the way,” Grohl marveled at the start of the hour-plus discussion. “This doesn’t happen all the time!”
Throughout, the pair displayed obvious affection for one another, recalling with charm and fond nostalgia the vertiginous events that led to Grohl becoming one of the world’s biggest rock stars.
“I think that love is every artist’s greatest muse,” Grohl told the crowd. “And the way you learn love comes from the love you got from your parents.”
The event, billed as a fireside chat, was held in promotion of Hanlon Grohl’s 2017 book, “From Cradle to the Stage,” in which she recalls raising the future Foo Fighter and speaks with the mothers of musicians including Rush’s Geddy Lee, Amy Winehouse, Michael Stipe, Dr. Dre, Adam Levine, Miranda Lambert and Brandi Carlile, among others. The book is being developed into a forthcoming docuseries by Live Nation Productions with Endeavor Content.
“I made a lot of good friends in my new sorority” of musician mothers, Hanlon Grohl said of the experience, prompting her son to boast that when he calls to invite her over for dinner, the elder Grohl has been known to hang up on him in order to get on a conference call with Dr. Dre. “That’s so f—ing crazy.”
Being in Toronto, Hanlon Grohl also shouted out Rush cofounder Geddy Lee’s mother, with whom she’s developed a strong friendship that includes attending Foo Fighters shows together.
Hanlon Grohl added that she pretends to be Canadian when traveling. “I hope you don’t mind — it’s a little tough these days [being an American abroad].”
Although he occasionally evoked childhood embarrassment with exaggerated “Come on, mom!”-type facial expressions, Grohl took every opportunity to praise his mother, an English teacher, for her dedication in nurturing her son’s nascent talent.
“It was before all initials: ADD, ADHD…” she said, before Grohl broke in — “D.A.V.E., that’s the worst one. If your kid gets that you better get them a shrink,” he said to laughs from the crowd.
Joking aside, the former Nirvana drummer recalled growing up in a suburb of Washington D.C. in a house too small to hold a drum set, so he learned to play by setting up pillows in formation and borrowing oversized marching band drum sticks from a neighbor.
“I was learning to play by listening to hardcore music like Bad Brains with these fat sticks, and then I would play normal drums and I would break everything,” he recalled, adding that he was never one for formality and learning. “We didn’t have jazz drum lesson money.”
His future as a musician became clear to both of them early on. “I decided by age 12 that this is my life and my life will be music,” recalled Grohl, who eventually dropped out of the school where his mother taught to tour Europe with hardcore band Scream. “She never told me to not listen to anything. When I was 14 I was listening to satanic death metal — she’d put on the Manhattan Transfer and I [would follow that up with Slayer’s 1986 classic] ‘Reign in Blood.’”
“I knew it was your path,” she told him. “You convinced me early.”
Now 50 and with children of his own, Grohl said he hopes to pay those lessons forward.
“I’ve got a kid who wants to be a musician and listens to Lil Pump, and I’m like, ‘Really?! I’ll need to have the talk,’” he said. “But [mom] never did it to me, so I don’t.
“And now I listen to Lil Pump.”