Uli Jon Roth: The Triple Anniversary Tour
By: Lori Smerilson Carson
Three is always greater than one, especially if it’s legendary Rock Guitarist Uli Jon Roth’s Triple Anniversary Tour. “This tour is quite different from my previous ones,” Roth revealed just prior to kicking off this US tour which the Ohio area can experience in Cleveland at the Agora Theater & Ballroom on April 27th, in Warrendale, PA at Jergel’s Rhythm Grille on April 29th and Louisville, KY at Diamond Pub & Billiards on May 4th.
No. 4 Magazine: Tell me about this tour? What can fans look forward to?
Uli Jon Roth: “It’s called Triple Anniversary Tour because I’m celebrating three anniversaries. The first two of which are forty years of my Tokyo Tapes recording with the Scorpions that was the end of my journey with the Scorpions. Then, in the same year we started my band Electric Sun (in 1978) and we recorded the first album Earthquake (released in 1979). So those are two anniversaries. Now the most important for me is the 50th anniversary of my first ever show which took place in 1968, in December and you know it’s been a long journey through music and through life, and these concerts reflect that. So, we’re playing long shows. It’s like a three hour show with intermission and we’re taking the audience on a little journey through some of the highlights from my career. In additionally to those who can’t get enough” he chuckled, “we’re even doing before that, a one hour pre-show concerto for VIP people who sign on for a VIP only event. At that event I’m playing my Metamorphosis concerto which is very different. It’s more classically based. Based on Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” and that’s one of my favorite parts of the tour because I don’t normally get to play that in a rock environment. So, that’s pretty much it. We’ve got a large screen at the back supporting the music with images and we’ve got a six - man band onstage with very skilled musicians so yeah, I really like this program. I think it’s the best I’ve ever brought to America.”
No. 4 Magazine: Now, who is in the band touring with you?
Roth: “Well mainly my favorite German friends. Most of them have been with me for a long time going back to 2006, 2008. My drummer is English, but all the others are German. I do have also a pool of musicians in the States and in other countries, but this, at the moment is my main touring band and I’m glad about that because they really understand how to play that music.”
No. 4 Magazine: So, you have that natural gel with them?
Roth: “Yeah, we have a natural gel and well established because we’ve done so many shows together. So you don’t need to explain anything anymore. Everybody knows what to do and what not to do, when, how and why. So that’s really nice. I don’t have to work anybody in on this tour. I’ve got other things to worry about you know,” He laughed.
No. 4 Magazine: Who would you say were your influences?
Roth: “There were many. Well, it started with The Beatles really. That was my biggest influence before I even started to play music myself. I loved their melodies and harmonies and songs and I was lucky about that because they gave me a really good grounding of melodies and harmonies. Then a little bit later when I started to play guitar, it was bands like the Cream with Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce. Then a little bit later, Jimi Hendrix and then all sorts of other people. Then, when I was in my teens I started to get into classical music. I started playing the classical guitar and the piano. Then I started to kind of combine the two worlds and try to find a new sound with that, and that’s pretty much it.”
No. 4 Magazine: Were you professional trained to play music?
Roth: “The guitar was completely self-taught, but I did have some lessons for the piano, the violin, and classical singing and conducting. Not many, just a few lessons, but that was enough. It pointed the way ahead. Most of it is really self-taught.”
No. 4: You conducted?
Roth: “I just took conducting lessons. The only conducting I did was I used to do orchestra recordings at my own house for some classical stuff back in the 90’s, but I’ve never really conducted orchestras and such”
No. 4 Magazine: Wow, that’s impressive. You started young like around 13 or so or were you younger?
Roth: “I was younger when I was into The Beatles and that was as I said, it was interesting because
I came to music as a little lad just listening to The Beatles, not being able to play and only later I actually picked up an instrument myself.”
No. 4 Magazine: So that inspired you to play?
Roth: “No. It just happened because it had to happen. It was my destiny. I was built for that. I was destined for that and then I had to find that and I did. It found me and I found it. Everything felt very natural, a natural progression. Once I got in contact with the guitar, everything went very quickly and it’s almost as if the instrument, I don’t know, there were no obstacles. It was so easy. It just flowed.”
No. 4 Magazine: Where do you get your inspiration to write all the songs that you did while you were with the Scorpions. What inspires you when you’re writing your music?
Roth: “Well back then it was different from what it is now. In the beginning I had to learn how to write music and gradually I became better and more skilled at it. Inspiration is everywhere. It’s like you need a certain mindset to be able to respond to it and once you know how to channel the inspiration then everything flows very naturally and easily and good things will come to you. It’s almost like drinking water or it’s like electricity which you get from a plug. It’s an energy. It’s a certain energy with a certain frequency and it’s charged with imagination and It’s charged with images, it’s charged with music. Then if you know how to tap into that, you can just make it happen inside of yourself, and then you translate it to an instrument and it becomes music. That’s what it is.”
No. 4 Magazine: You’ve been an inspiration to others, do you have any favorite musicians of today?
Roth: “You know I’m really not an expert on any of that because I stopped listening to current music a long time ago. I don’t even know why that is but I mean, I know there’s a lot of talent out there and every once in a while, you hear something in the car and so you think ‘wow, that’s really good.’ I don’t really have the desire as much to check things out unless they’re really mind blowing and so that doesn’t seem to happen a lot. The current music scene isn’t exactly attractive to me particularly when it comes to mainstream, so I find most of it totally uninspired and boring, and if there’s something I hate particularly in music is when I find it boring. So maybe that’s why I tuned out a long time ago. I just please myself,” he chuckled. “Kind of like I play what I want to play and that’s that. I guess I’m privileged to be able to do that you know, whatever the cost.”
No. 4 Magazine: You said you get your inspirations everywhere for your music, your shows?
Roth: “Yeah, from other things. Inspiration doesn’t come from other music necessarily, although of course when I was younger, I did listen to a lot of music and I’ve learned a lot by listening to other people, but nowadays, inspiration does not come from listening to other music. It’s probably the least factor, the smallest factor.”
No. 4 Magazine: Just things in your life that you experience or see?
Roth: “Yeah, it could be anything. Usually it’s just a single idea that starts it off or a musical idea, or a philosophical idea or whatever. You can find the inspiration pretty much anywhere.”
No. 4 Magazine: What would you recommend for a new guitarist or a new musician wanting to establish themselves?
Roth: “Um, that’s not an easy question to answer because establishing themselves means that they have to have some commercial success and I’m the least equipped to answer that because I’m the guy who left the Scorpions you know, “he laughed. “I don’t really care for these things as much, but to establish yourself nowadays is not easy. It used to be much easier back when I was a kid because then it was all about quality. If somebody could really play and if somebody really had something to say. That’s when people took notice and usually record executives, some of them were still spotting talent. Nowadays, it’s mainly about looks and other superficial values. You have to do the right thing at the right time. So, all the things that I believe in nowadays they count for very little. So, I cannot really give you much advice or these young people who want to make it in the business, but I guess the advice that always holds true for just about any situation is you got to find your own something. whatever it is, because if there’s no quality to it and if there’s no originality to it, then you get very little chance to make anything successful. Also, perseverance because most of the time things don’t happen overnight. You’ve got to follow your star, and what I mean by that is something that you see in your mind’s eye. Then, just go for it and find your own path.”
No. 4 Magazine: That’s good advice.
Roth: “I don’t know, but it’s certainly as I said, holds true for most things I would think.”
No. 4 Magazine: You released a Box Set for the Tokyo Live in 2018, did you have any plans to release any other new music?
Roth: “Yes, absolutely! We are currently producing of Box set basically representing this tour, this Triple Anniversary Tour. We recorded everything in Japan early on this year, and that I think is going to be an interesting product, but we’re still in the beginning stages. So, everything is recorded, but we’re still sifting through the material.”
No. 4 Magazine: Are you going to include your classical music too?
Roth: “Well, there’s only really just very little of it because it’s still more a rock album. In fact, we had a special guest, Rudolf Schenker of the Scorpions joined us for that show in Tokyo. So, it’s mainly rock, but it’s a little bit of classical, some acoustic guitar playing of mine which is pretty much classical.”
No. 4 Magazine: What would you say are your favorite guitars?
Roth: “They’re called Sky Guitars. They are the only ones that I want to play. They are really made so I am perfectly happy with them. I mean there are great guitars out there, Fender, Stratocaster, Les Paul are classic guitars and I always think they sound great. They look great, but playing wise, I much prefer my own instruments.”
No. 4 Magazine: What inspired you to create the Sky guitar?
Roth: “It was the simple fact that originally playing out in the Scorpions days, I was pushing the envelope with my guitar leads and I ran out of frets, meaning I wanted to play higher than was possible on a traditional guitar. In order to do that, I had to create a different shape and a guitar with a greater range and that’s how the Sky guitar first came into being. Then later on all sorts of other features were integrated. Now they’ve got onboard effects, they’ve got echo’s, loopers. All sort of things, mini’s. A pretty much dream machine for myself, but we’re also sending them to a limited customer base because they’re all hand built and they take a long time to make. There’s a one year waiting list and they’re extremely expensive.”
No. 4 Magazine. It sounds like they are very intricate.
Roth: “They are very intricate. Yes, you have to be a real player, be on top of these instruments otherwise this guitar will control you.”
No. 4 Magazine: Oh. Well then, I won’t go near it. ha ha!
Roth: “Actually, there are some people who just like them for the looks. They just bought them to have them hanging on their wall and it becomes a collector’s item you know, for aesthetic reasons” he chuckled.
No. 4 Magazine: Do you sign those?
Roth: “I don’t like signing those particularly on the front because they’re very aesthetically pleasing and I think it just spoils it. I have been persuaded with a few of them to sign the back of the neck, against my better judgment, but I’ve done it. So, I’m guilty of that.”
No. 4 Magazine: Are you going to expand this line in the future?
Roth: “Well, we are expanding constantly because I’m always coming up with new prototypes. On this tour I’m playing two new prototypes, putting them through the paces. They have new features and these features I’m exploring them on a night by night basis onstage, because that’s the best way to explore them for me. Early in the line of fire so to speak. So yes, we have quite a few models which have different abilities and different looks. You’ll find them on my Sky Guitar website which is called UJR Sky Guitars. For those who are interested,” He chuckled.
No. 4 Magazine: That’s very cool.
Roth: “It’s not a guitar you can walk into a shop and find because we’re not giving them to the shops. This is all hand made to order, kind of more an almost elite prestige object. Playing wise, these guitars enable you to do things that just aren’t on a standard guitar and that’s what I find the most important aspect of it.”
No. 4 Magazine: How long is your US tour?
Roth: “This one I think 45 shows. We’re booking a couple of shows on the back end. So, it’s basically two months.”
No. 4 Magazine: You mentioned Rudolf Schenker was in Japan. Is it possible that any of your old pals may show up to any of the US shows?
Roth: “No, I don’t think they’ll show up. They are always on tour themselves and when they’re not on tour, they’re just resting wherever in some remote part of the world or at home in Germany. No, that’s very unlikely. The thing also with these Triple Anniversary shows, it’s the kind of show where it’s difficult to integrate a special guest because our show is already pretty much a very compact set of things. It would be difficult to really integrate that. It may happen occasionally. Sometimes musician friends, they just turn up and we might say ok, what if we do a jam song at the end or whatever. In the past, normally I’m known to doing that. I’ve done it a lot, it’s just not this kind of tour right now and we haven’t really planned anything like that.”
What fans can plan on with Roth’s Triple Anniversary tour is having a truly amazing, entertaining musical experience starting with his original songs, through his Scorpions and Electric Sun tunes. Some will even have the opportunity to hear his classical music. Truly a show not to miss!