Interview with ULI JON ROTH

MORAG FARLEY / KAHMEL FARAHANI

 

DTF: You’re in the middle of celebrating your 30th anniversary with a triple tour. How does it feel to still be touring and recording after this long in the business?

 

UJR: It may sound strange, but I’m still enjoying it very much. You know, lots of the time at least. Sometimes touring can be hard, physically, and mentally, but in general I’m really still enjoying it. Like right now we’re in Scotland, in Aberdeen…it’s beautiful but it’s snowing outside so tomorrow we have to drive down south and we hope for the best. So these are the things that can happen on the tour and we just roll with the punches.

 

DTF: Aberdeen is beautiful this time of year. You recently released your albums Scorpions Revisited and the Blu-Ray Tokyo Tapes Revisited, what did it feel like revisiting your work after so many years? Did you feel the desire to change or even update it, or just leave a lot of it just as it was?

 

UJR: It was very interesting for me to do this. I didn’t quite know what to expect at first but I gave it my best shot because most of these songs I hadn’t really played or listened to for nigh on forty years and so there was a bit of a journey of rediscovery and it was surprisingly easy and natural to reconnect with that music and actually very enjoyable. And the good thing is, the audiences were really enjoying it during our shows and the album did well, so yeah, it’s been a good experience all round this entire project.

 

DTF: Okay, thank you. And on both of those projects you worked with Nathan James who we know quite well over here as the lead singer from Inglorious, so what was he like to work with?

 

UJR: We’re friends, we get on very well. When he started out with me he came in as a guest at first and that was before Inglorious and I immediately realised his talent and he was the right person to sing these tracks, you know. Particularly also because his voice is completely different to that of the original Scorpions and I wanted to make a different statement to show that the songs can stand on their own feet and they don’t necessarily need the original members to do them justice and you can also play them in a slightly different way. But we stuck to the original in the important aspects and Nathan gave it a special kind of flavour, which I thought was great. It was a different take on this material, and he nailed it.

 

DTF: Yeah, Nathan would, I’ve seen him performing live lots of times and I know his work with Inglorious has just been absolutely fantastic over the last couple of years. I’m a big fan of Inglorious.

 

UJR:  Great.

 

DTF: Okay, more about you I think, actually. You’re returning to the UK next April as part of the G3 Tour with Joe Satriani and Dream Theatre’s John Petrucci, are you looking forward to that?

 

UJR: I’m really looking forward to that. I’ve done one G3 tour in the past and we had a blast there, it was really a nice time and a nice tour and I think this one will be as well and I’m glad we’re doing all these shows in the UK because I enjoy playing the UK and we’ve got some really nice dates lined up including Hammersmith  and Manchester Apollo and a lot of the best halls in England so that should be really cool and also looking forward to interact with Joe again on stage and also John Petrucci who I haven’t played with before.

 

DFT: Okay, thank you. How does the dynamic differ when playing alongside other great guitarists, do you feel yourself pushed further or is it more of a collaborative experience?

 

UJR: It’s different each time, it really depends on the personalities that are on stage, you know. I mean in some respects all guitar players are the same and in other respects they’re all different, you know? It’s certainly a different kind of experience from playing your own material with one’s own band. When one is jamming with other guitar players it’s a little bit like a friendly tennis match, everybody tries to do their best to score points by making it really extra exciting. There’s a little bit of competition, but it is always a friendly competition and a respectful competition because at the end it’s not really like tennis where one person leads so many sets to nil or whatever, it’s different. But I would say there’s a little bit of that and it makes it exciting, everybody wants to do their very best in a moment like that and a lot of times it creates magical moments because you don’t know what’s coming. At least that’s the way I like it, playing free and unscripted.

 

DTF: Sounds like it’s going to be pretty exciting on stage then.

 

UJR: It should be. If it’s not, we’re not doing our jobs right. (Both laugh)

 

UJR: You get your money back.

 

DTF: Ah, yes. (Both laugh)

 

DFT: Your own style of playing is legendary and many have credited you as the Father of shredding and even symphonic playing, how do you see your own style within the history of guitar music?

 

UJR:  I’ve always been somebody who tried to push the boundaries of guitar further out, meaning to increase the scope of what can be done with an electric guitar, I’ve always found that interesting. Not in a cranky kind of way, or really trying to do something absolutely novel, that was not so interesting to me. I wanted it always in a musical context of how far can we explore new territory in terms of guitar playing and I think the guitar is a great tool for that, you can still come up with a lot of new angles. It’s just a great means of being creative and inventive that’s what I always strived for and also to just give, for myself, purely personally it’s just a very organic way of expressing my musical feelings and intentions. It’s very direct, very colourful, powerful and also versatile…flexible, that’s what I like, integrating many different colours and hopefully achieving something, an organic whole at the end.

 

DTF: Brilliant, thank you. That’s really…I guess it’s quite an emotional sort of thing as well once you’re playing live.

 

UJR: Yeah, when you’re playing of course it’s an emotional thing, I mean the mind plays a big role but a lot of that is in the preparation, you know. Learning how to play or what you want to play and how to play it but when you are playing most if it I would say is an emotional experience and if it’s not then it tends to leave people cold.

 

DTF: Yep, okay.

 

UJR: I mean, music played without emotion sounds usually trite or it just doesn’t touch anybody.

 

DTF: Yes, certainly I know audiences can tend to get involved in the emotional swing of things as well which is quite…um…you know, it just becomes quite an organic experience.

 

UJR: Yes, that’s the way I see it. To play to a friendly audience, an attentive audience that is willing to go with you on that journey is a great experience and it makes you play it better, if you know how to be the catalyst of that. I think it’s a really nice experience and I love playing on stage and sharing these vibes with the audience.

 

DTF: Okay. You’ve often spoken about Hendrix as being a big source of inspiration for you. Do you think any current or future guitarist will come along and revolutionise guitar playing in a similar way that he did?

 

UJR: Unlikely, but possible. You know, it’s unlikely because he was very much at the beginning of when it all started and when things are at the beginning, then usually the greatest advances tend to happen at the beginning and later on it’s more a process of gradual refinement. I think that’s a law of nature, it’s always like that. The very excitement of what it’s like at the very beginning cannot really be replicated and usually most of the important findings are at the beginning of a discovery, particularly in music. Later on, it tends to get more polished and in some ways also better but that’s as you say, that revolutionary aspect of doing things very differently and creating totally new sounds, that happens in the beginning and later on it’s not such a big, steep journey any more.

 

DTF: Yeah

 

UJR: He was at the beginning he probably revolutionised guitar playing in a very profound way and it affected everybody, even those players who don’t even know it; it just totally affected the entire scene. And also myself because I’m also one of those players, one of the few last players from the late sixties I was part of that process. I was part of the generation after Hendrix, but I still had the huge advantage in that sense, that I was there when the field was still extremely wide open. And as you mentioned, the classical aspect, nobody was really doing it at that time and I thought “why not?” because that’s what I wanted to hear and that’s how I started bringing all these classical things and technical aspects into the electric guitar playing. I wasn’t the only one there doing that, but I think I was maybe possibly the one who was most serious about that aspect of it at the time. In the nineties it wouldn’t have been so new because in the nineties, a lot of people started playing arpeggios and all this on the electric guitar.

 

DTF: In terms of what the future might hold, what are your current and future plans as far as new music, should we be expecting anything from you?

 

UJR: You should always expect things from me, but it’s been a long time since I released an album with new material and the reason for that is that I’m on tour a lot and it usually takes me a long time to produce an album. I’ve written enough music for more than one new album the problem is finding all the time in the studio to do it and record it, as I tend to take a lot of time in the studio. So I’ve started recording new things, but I don’t know when that process will be finished.

 

DTF: Okay, I’m sure we shall look forward to hearing when the time is right and when you’ve spend all that time in the studio. And finally, you’ve made several live guest appearances with your old band, are you open to playing any more shows with the Scorpions if the chance arises?

 

UJR: Yeah, I’m always open, but I don’t know what the future holds in that respect. They are gradually winding down their thing and it’s always possible, but it’s become more of a rare kind of event. I mean last year we played together in Tokyo, but at the moment nothing seems to be on the horizon in that respect. And things like that can also arise very spontaneously, you know, so it’s possible, but nothing’s planned.

 

DTF: Thank you. That was my last question, so I’ve got nothing further unless there’s anything you’d like to add to what we’ve talked about?

 

UJR: No, I mean, you’ve asked all the questions and that’s pretty much all I can say. I just enjoy touring in the UK at the moment and looking forward to the rest of the tour, that’s all.

 

DTF: Yes, thank you. Thank you very much for your time this afternoon and we look forward to seeing you on your future dates.

 

UJR: That’s great, thank you very much for the interview.

 

 

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