ULI JON ROTH: “I Didn’t Think That The Music Would Be Still So Loved 50 Years Later”

ULI JON ROTH (Live at The Think Tank, Newcastle, U.K., October 23, 2014)
Photo: Mick Burgess

You’ll be over in the UK soon on a 9 date UK tour. Are you looking forward to playing over here again?

I’m looking forward to it very much. It’s been a while so it will be great to be back.

It’s good to see you back in Newcastle on 26th November. You played one of your legendary shows at Newcastle City Hall in on 21st May 1983. That’s over 40 years ago. How did that go by so quickly?

I have no idea how that time has passed so quickly. Newcastle was always one of my most important places going right back to those Electric Sun days. It’s always been great for me. That show in 1983 at the City Hall was one of the best ever Electric Sun shows. I remember it well, that evening was magical. It was like if me and the audience were as one. I’ve played many shows in my career but Newcastle in ’83 stands out. There is a video of that show that we put out called ‘Historic Performances’. It is bootleg quality but it’s very watchable.

That show took place because a couple of local fans wrote to you and persuaded you to play in Newcastle. What happened there?

Two girls made a petition and they got hundreds of people to sign and that persuaded a promoter to book me to play at the City Hall. I’ll never forget that.

Have you enjoyed coming back over the following years?

Because of that show in 1983 I have a really warm feeling towards Newcastle people. When I first started Electric Sun I had no idea that I had such a following. I was blown away by the response in England but Newcastle was in its own league.

You have over 50 years of music to celebrate from the Scorpions, Electric Sun and your solo work in both the Rock and Classical spheres. What will you be covering in your set on this tour?

It’s going to be a cross section of all of my work. There will be my most essential Scorpions tracks like ‘Sails Of Charon’ and ‘We’ll Burn The Sky’. Then there will be some Electric Sun songs like some that I played at the City Hall but I have done better arrangements now breathing new life into those songs. I’ll also be doing some new music and a little section with my nine-string Flamenco Sky guitar.

Will your old bassist Ule Ritgen be joining you on the tour?

Unfortunately not. He doesn’t tour any more but we’re still very good friends. He’s now more of an oil painting artist and he’s very good at him. I’m sure I could still drag him out for a show every now and then though. On this tour I’m joined by my longstanding bassist, Nicklaus Thurman, who is also my singer and on drums is an English guy called Richard Kirke. He’s done quite a few tours with me in America and Japan.

You are due to rerelease your first Electric Sun album, Earthquake in a few weeks. Will this be remastered and include bonus tracks?

It’ll be all singing and all dancing. We’ve put a lot of work into it. The remastering went through many different stages to make it sound as authentic as possible while taking full advantage of all the modern technology that is available now but wasn’t back then. The artwork is getting a good overhaul too and there’s a couple of bonus tracks. We’re doing the same with Firewind, our second album too and then Beyond The Astral Skies is the next one on the agenda. So gradually we’ll be working through my entire back catalogue bringing it up to scratch and also making it available on vinyl again, which hasn’t been the case in ages.

This will be released on your own label Alpha Experium, which you’ve just launched. Why did you decide to set up your own label?

My manager had the idea to start my own label as there are so many advantages on every level. We are using the same distributors as the major labels but now I have 100% artistic control. I now don’t need to discuss things with the A&R department or anything. The priority to me is to deliver something that is like a work of art and the commercial aspects are secondary. A record company would see that in an entirely opposite way.

Will this be a label just for your music or are you planning on signing other artists to your label?

Not at the moment but I could see some artists benefitting from this set up at some point in the future.

It’s been a few years since your last album of new material, Under A Dark Sky, which was released in 2008. Do you have any plans to record together?

There’s a lot in the pipeline and I’m working on quite a few things. I’ve recently been working in Dierks Studios, which is owned by the Scorpions producer Dieter Dierks, over in Cologne and I’ve spent quite some time there getting some great results. What we are planning to do is rather than releasing complete albums with 12 tracks, we’ll release three or four songs at a time as that seems more in keeping with the times. Older people still think in terms of albums but younger fans use Spotify.

You are also planning on releasing a book In Search Of The Alpha Law. What is this about?

It’s a very big book that I wrote during the lockdown. It’s about 600 pages long with nigh on 1000 photographs and illustrations. It’s a book about my own personal philosophy of looking at life and how it all works. It’s my personal understanding of ourselves and the universe. It’s a very philosophical book as seen through the eyes of someone that loves music. It’s very much about harmony and rhythm. It’s a big coffee table book into which I put a lot of love and care. Thanks to lockdown I was able to do this.

You made Fly To The Rainbow, the first of four studio albums with the Scorpions almost 50 years ago. Did you ever think that the records that you made back then would still be so highly thought of almost half a century later?

It does take me by surprise that it’s lasted so long but it doesn’t surprise me that we were successful but I didn’t think that the music would be still so loved 50 years later. We were at the crest of the wave just at the right moment so we did something at a point in time that really hit the centre line and the Scorpions kept on doing that after I left.

A few years back you played with the Scorpions and also Michael Schenker which was a real treat for long standing fans. How did it feel to play with them again after all those years?

It does feel like family when I’m back up on stage with them and it’s such a familiar feeling even though a lot of time had passed since we had last played together. When you have known people that long it’s unlike anything else. It’s almost like old school friends from 50 years ago that when you meet again within seconds you’re on the same level again.

Do you hope to play a few more shows together before they call it a day?

Nothing is planned at the moment and don’t know if anything will happen in the future. I just know that I’ll keep going as long as my health is good.

You have also designed your own guitar which you have called the Sky guitar. Did you initially do this as you felt that there were limitations to the traditional guitar?

The first Sky guitar was built around 1983. As much as I loved the Fender Stratocaster and the Gibson Les Paul, these are perfect instruments in their own right, I had a notion that I wanted to take things further and have an instrument that was more versatile without losing the quality of those guitars. It’s very much a child of those guitars but it takes me to my own next level. It’s not for everybody, it’s more for me but we do sell them to order. They are made by hand so we don’t make many each year. So far there’s one hundred around the world with most in Japan and a couple in the UK.

Do you only play the Sky guitar these days or do you still return to your Stratocaster every now and then?

I still love the Strat to strum chords and rhythm but for lead playing the Sky guitar is more versatile and powerful. I think it’s more to do with the way I play as I deliberately do things differently now. My personal preference is for the Sky guitar as it allows me a more mellow channel. I think maybe I was more aggressive and had more intensity when I played the Strat.

You were one of the first guitarists that combined a Rock guitar with a classical style. Were you listening to a lot of classical music growing up?

I was listening to both Rock music and Classical music when I was younger. For a long time I just listened to Classical and completely ignored Rock. I knew all of my Hendrix albums and Cream backwards. I listened to bands like Yes also and thought they were phenomenal. I just thought that Rock had a very limited palette but with Classical and Ethnic music such as Flamenco, it spoke more to my sense of melody and harmony and made everything feel like a better world. Being in the woods, seeing animals or a beautiful sunrise feels more like a Beethoven Symphony or Chopin. I relate very strongly to all that as I’m deeply rooted in the positive side of nature and of human nature. I know the other things are there so I try to stay as far away from that as I can. Rock music can be a double edged sword and have a place on both sides but I’ve tried to bring as much positivity into my Rock music as I can while mixing it with some of the stark realism that we see out there.

What do you have planned for next year?

We are planning shows for the spring in Europe and Greece. I’ll be playing in North America too and a bunch of festivals in the summer. I’ve written a lot over the years but not recorded anything so I want to put that right so I hope to be recording as much as I can next year.

Uli Jon Roth’s UK Tour starts at The Globe in Cardiff on 20th November.

For more on Uli Jon Roth visist: ujr.info


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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