Peter Koerella is a longtime feature on the Southern Oregon music scene, often seen discreetly in the background at Camelot Theatre and other venues on his gleaming doublebass, but also cutting loose as a member of the new bluegrass band, 33 String Drive. I caught up with Koerella to chat about his latest projects.
JG: Peter, tell us a little about your musical history and what led you to the bass guitar and upright bass?
PK: Music has always been a part of my life. My mom was a dance instructor and my Dad owned a record store in Salt Lake City. Each summer we’d go to Telluride, Colorado, to boogie down at the town’s annual bluegrass festival; it was magic! I wanted play guitar so I could be the cool guy strumming a six-string. But when I finally got one, I hated it — too many strings! I was fascinated by the deep, thunderous sound of the upright bass and loved what a full-body experience playing one can be. Plus it’s just four strings — perfect.
JG:What are some of your major creative influences and why?
PK: Oh, I have plenty! I love the driving Motown pulse of James Jamerson, the rockabilly slap of Bill Black (who played with Elvis in the Sun Records days), and the incredible precision of guys like Flea and Victor Wooten. But I’m more of a Ray Brown bassist than a Charles Mingus bassist — straight ahead. A bass line doesn’t have to be virtuosic to be great. One of the best and most identifiable bass lines ever written is by Herbie Flowers, who played on Lou Reed’s iconic “Walk On The Wild Side.” It’s just two chords, and it’s fantastic! You can’t help but bob your head to that groove.
JG: What have been some of your favorite creative experiences and collaborations in the Rogue Valley?
PK: I played with Eight Dollar Mountain for several years. It was a thrill to write original songs and tour all over the Northwest with them. These days I perform with 33 String Drive, a new group that highlights some of the Rogue Valley’s most talented bluegrass musicians, featuring members of Foxfire, Siskiyou Summit, LEFT, Jazzgrass, and others. It’s a privilege and an awesome challenge to play with musicians of this caliber. You don’t have to go to North Carolina to find great bluegrass music, it’s right here in our backyard!
JG: Tell us about any upcoming performances about which you're particularly excited.
PK: On Saturday, Oct. 14, 33 String Drive will be performing at KS Wild’s annual dinner at the Ashland Armory, helping celebrate 20 years of defending biodiversity in the Klamath-Siskiyou region. It’ll feature a catered dinner by Butcher and Baker, auctions and live music by yours truly! Then on Thursday, Oct. 19, 33 String Drive will play at La Baguette Music Café at 340 A Street.
— Ashland resident Jeffrey Gillespie is a Daily Tidings columnist, arts reviewer and freelance writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.