Uli Jon Roth

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Uli Jon Roth
Roth at Wacken Open Air 2015
Roth at Wacken Open Air 2015
Background information
Also known asUlrich Roth
Born (1954-12-18) 18 December 1954 (age 68)
Düsseldorf, West Germany
Instrument(s)Guitar, vocals
Years active1968–present
Formerly of

Uli Jon Roth (born Ulrich Roth; 18 December 1954) is a German guitarist who became famous for his work with the hard rock band Scorpions and is one of the earliest contributors to the neoclassical metal genre. He is also the founder of Sky Academy and designer of the Sky Guitar. He is the older brother of fellow guitarist and artist Zeno Roth (1956–2018).


Dawn Road and Scorpions[edit]

Roth formed a band called Dawn Road in the early 1970s. When guitarist Michael Schenker left the Scorpions to join UFO in 1973, the two remaining Scorpions members Rudolf Schenker and Klaus Meine joined the four members of Dawn Road, but decided to use the name Scorpions rather than the less-well-known Dawn Road.[1] Scorpions released four studio albums during his tenure as lead guitarist, main songwriter and occasional lead singer between 1974 and 1977.

Electric Sun[edit]

Roth formed his own band named Electric Sun—releasing three albums: Earthquake (1979) dedicated to the spirit of Jimi Hendrix, Fire Wind (1981), dedicated to Anwar Sadat and featured a song called "Enola Gay (Hiroshima Today?)" about the atomic bombing of Japan by a Boeing B-29 Superfortress bomber of that name, and his third and final Electric Sun album Beyond the Astral Skies (1985), dedicated both to Martin Luther King Jr. and to Roth's fans. This final album featured ex-Jethro Tull drummer Clive Bunker, on drums and timpani.

Solo career[edit]

Roth entered a new phase of creative work after Electric Sun, composing four symphonies and two concertos and sometimes performing with symphony orchestras throughout Europe. Roth used the name "Uli Jon Roth" for all subsequent album releases and concert appearances.

The G3 European tour of 1998 featured Roth playing with Joe Satriani and Michael Schenker. The show at London Wembley Arena also featured a jam with Brian May.

Roth played at the outdoor rock festival at Castle Donington in 2001 (also featuring original Scorpions lead guitarist Michael Schenker on the bill). This was filmed and subsequently released on DVD.

Roth appeared in concert with Scorpions onstage at the Wacken Open Air Festival in 2006 along with two other former members of the band. Billed as "A Night to Remember; A Journey Through Time", the Scorpions played four songs from the Roth Era, most of which they had not played live since Roth had left in 1978. This concert was also filmed and released on DVD.[2]

Although this was meant to be a "one night only" special event, its success meant that the format was repeated on several tours subsequently.

At the Rock am Ring festival in Germany in June 2007, Roth joined The Smashing Pumpkins on-stage for their epic closing song "Gossamer." He made another appearance with the Pumpkins upon their return to Germany on 26 February 2008.

Roth had begun working on a new full-length studio album in 2007 which was to be released the following year. The title of the album would be: "Under A Dark Sky" and was going to be the first official release in the long-awaited series of Symphonic Legends (a cycle of music written by Uli for his all-encompassing Sky of Avalon project.)

Roth debuted songs from "Under a Dark Sky" on 18 July 2008 in his headline set at the G-TARanaki Guitar Festival in New Zealand. This was his first concert in the country. Roth also took his "Sky Academy" tuition classes to Taranaki, Waitara, Inglewood and Ōpunake. Guests musicians included Vernon Reid and Gilby Clarke.

"Under a Dark Sky" was released in Japan on 20 August 2008 via Marquee records. The European and USA releases followed a month later on 20 September 2008 on the SPV record label.

Roth (right) with his band at Hamburg Metal Dayz 2015

Uli Jon Roth released a two-CD studio album entitled Scorpions Revisited, which was recorded in 2014 in Hanover in early 2015. Roth revisited his personal favourites from the early Scorpions period.

A tour called The Ultimate Guitar Experience with fellow guitarists Jennifer Batten and Andy Timmons followed. Uli soon thereafter embarked on another world tour: this time playing The Tokyo Tapes, songs from the Scorpions 1978 tour of Japan and ensuing live album.

A double CD and Blu-ray/DVD were released in December 2016 of a concert Uli and his band played in Japan in 2015 commemorating the anniversary of The Tokyo Tapes. Roth concluded a short North American tour in March 2017, highlighting songs from both Scorpions Revisited and Tokyo Tapes.

Roth participated a second time at the G3 European tour with Joe Satriani and John Petrucci in March 2017.

Roth contributed an afterword to the 2017 book Shredders!: The Oral History of Speed Guitar (And More) by Greg Prato.[3]

Sky guitars[edit]

Roth commissioned construction of custom guitars with additional frets from luthier Andreas Demetriou in the 1980s. Roth has had five of these "Sky" guitars made. To be able to emulate the high notes of a violin, all of the Sky Guitars have more frets than a typical electric guitar. The first Sky Guitar (used on the album Beyond the Astral Skies) had 30 frets. Later versions of the Sky Guitar overcame the problem of the higher register frets becoming too narrow by widening the frets by whole steps for the highest notes. In an April 2001 Guitar Player magazine interview Roth reported that the guitars are either fretless above the 30th fret, or have whole step fret spacing above the 27th fret, with 35 effective (half step) frets. All of the Sky Guitars with frets have scalloped fretboards. The Sky Guitar's pickups are custom 4-coil humbuckers, made by John Oram, with one guitar having an Oram pickup hidden under the 24th fret.[4][5] For a time, Roth used a Framus Dragon amplifier, although currently he promotes Blackstar Artisan 100 & Series One 200 Watt heads.[6] He has also used a stalk mounted Vibesware guitar resonator (sustainer) to introduce infinite sustain as on the instrumental Benediction on his Under A Dark Sky album.[7] Dean Guitars produced 25 Custom Sky Guitars based on Roth's custom models with six and seven strings in 2011.[8]

Playing style[edit]

Initially, Roth was inspired by The Beatles, The Jimi Hendrix Experience and Eric Clapton's fretwork on John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers and Cream. He would, later on, reveal his appreciation for fellow 1970 guitar heroes such as Pink Floyd's David Gilmour, Deep Purple's Ritchie Blackmore and Jeff Beck, especially his fusion masterpiece Blow by Blow.[9][10] In 1971 he began studying piano and classical guitar. His influences broadened, now including spanish guitar virtuoso Andrés Segovia and violinist Yehudi Menuhin.[11]

Roth performing in 2018

Roth's solo on Scorpion's "Sails of Charon" - off the Taken by Force album - is notable for impressive speed and precision. The solo displayed a number of classical techniques, weaving pedal point sequences, harmonic / "Middle Eastern" sounding scales and rapid-fire arpeggios.[12][13] Of note, Metallica's Kirk Hammett famously quoted a portion of this solo on "Battery", the opening song of Master of Puppets (1986).[14]

In Roth's early days with Scorpions, his soloing style was based primarily on the blues scale, occasionally incorporating notes from other modes. However, by the time the band recorded the Virgin Killer album, he began incorporating more advanced compositional elements from European classical music: such as pedal tone sequences and intricate arpeggios. Beginning with Electric Sun, the classical influence began to dominate his playing style- notable in songs like "Cast Away Your Chains" and "Still So Many Lives Away". His style eventually became a fusion of blues-based rock with European classical sensibilities. Roth employs major and minor pentatonic, the blues scale, phrygian, harmonic minor, diminished, and the whole tone scale.

Personal life[edit]

Roth was romantically involved with artist Monika Dannemann who was with Jimi Hendrix when he died. Roth and Danneman collaborated on various songs including "We'll Burn the Sky" from Scorpions' Taken by Force

Danneman also painted the album sleeves for all three of the releases by Electric Sun.

Monika Dannemann was convicted of breaking a 1996 British High Court order not to repeat allegations that Kathy Etchingham was an "inveterate liar" for accusing her of playing a role in Jimi Hendrix's death. Although Etchingham asked the judge to jail Dannemann she was released. Monika Dannemann was found dead in a fume-filled Mercedes-Benz near her cottage in Seaford, East Sussex two days later—aged 50. Her death was ruled a suicide,[15] but Roth publicly stated his opinion that her death was the result of foul play. He dedicated his later works to the memory of Dannemann.

Roth has been living in the UK for several years. His current home (as of 2015) is in Llansilin in Powys.[16]

Roth has been a vegetarian since the Scorpions days.[17]

Roth performed a charity concert of his interpretation of Vivaldi's Four Seasons at Saint Silin's Church in his home town on 21 June 2019. This was an effort to raise money for help the church.[18]


Roth has been on the cover of many guitar magazines and has influenced many notable guitar players including: Billy Corgan,[19] Kirk Hammett,[20] Marty Friedman,[21] Yngwie Malmsteen, Gus G,[22] Andy DiGelsomina,[23] Michael Romeo,[24] Wolf Hoffman,[25] Syu,[26] Eric Peterson of Testament,[27] Hank Shermann of Mercyful Fate,[28] Joe Stump,[29] James Byrd.[30] and Fredrik Åkesson from Opeth and Ghost. [31]


Year Band Title Type
1974 Scorpions Fly to the Rainbow Studio
1975 In Trance Studio
1976 Virgin Killer Studio
1977 Taken by Force Studio
1978 Tokyo Tapes Live
1979 Electric Sun Earthquake Studio
1980 Fire Wind Studio
1985 Beyond the Astral Skies Studio
2000 The Electric Sun Years Vol. I & II DVD
1991 Uli Jon Roth Aquila Suite – 12 Arpeggio Concert Etudes for Solo Piano Studio
1996 Sky of Avalon – Prologue to the Symphonic Legends (with Sky Orchestra) Studio
1998 From Here To Eternity Compilation
2000 Transcendental Sky Guitar Vol. I & II Live
2002 Legends Of Rock: Live At Castle Donington (DVD & CD) Live
2003 Metamorphosis of Vivaldi's Four Seasons Studio
2006 The Best Of Uli Jon Roth Compilation
2008 Under a Dark Sky (Sky of Avalon) Studio
2015 Scorpions Revisited Studio
2016 Tokyo Tapes Revisited - Live in Japan (DVD & CD) Live

Unreleased solo works[edit]

Year Title
1987 Sky Concerto
1992 Europa ex Favilla (symphony)
1994 Hiroshima de Profundis (symphony)
1996/97/98 Requiem for an Angel (dedicated to the memory of Monika Dannemann)

Guest appearance[edit]

Session work[edit]

  • Disco Motion (1978) lead guitar on "Rock Tell" by The Original Red Apple Orchestra


  1. ^ Klüsener, Edgar (circa 1990). Scorpions - Sting of Change. Metal Attack Magazine. Scanned page 3/7. Archived at Uli Jon Roth fansite.
  2. ^ Angulo, Steve (9 April 2009). Scorpions – Live At Wacken Open Air 2006 DVD (2007) (Review). Hard Rock Heavy Metal blog.
  3. ^ Shredders!: The Oral History Of Speed Guitar (And More). 14 March 2017. ISBN 978-1911036210.
  4. ^ "Sky Guitar". Retrieved 9 January 2014.
  5. ^ September 2000 issue of Young Guitar magazine
  6. ^ "Blackstar Amps Uli Jon Roth Quote". Retrieved 3 March 2015.
  7. ^ "Vibesware Guitar Feedback Playing". Retrieved 9 January 2014.
  8. ^ "ULI JON ROTH SERIES". Retrieved 9 January 2014.
  9. ^ Newton, Steve (11 March 2016). "That time Uli Jon Roth told me that he'd most like to jam with David Gilmour, Ritchie Blackmore, and Jeff Beck". Ear of Newt. Retrieved 30 June 2021.
  10. ^ Prato, Greg (6 December 2016). "Uli Jon Roth's 5 Essential Guitar Albums". Louder. Retrieved 29 June 2021.
  11. ^ "Biography". Uli Jon Roth. Retrieved 29 June 2021.
  12. ^ Prato, Greg (29 June 2016). "Scorpions in the Seventies: New Book Dissects a 'German Metal Machine'". Guitar World. Retrieved 30 June 2021.
  13. ^ Crespo, GregCharley (22 May 2019). "Manhattan Beat: Acid Mothers Temple, Uli Jon Roth, Combichrist, The Blackfires". The Aquarian Weekly. Retrieved 30 June 2021.
  14. ^ "KIRK HAMMETT, ULI JON ROTH On 'That Metal Show' Season Premiere; Entire Episode Available". Blabbermouth.net. 24 March 2011. Retrieved 30 June 2021.
  15. ^ Braid, Mary (1 May 1996). "A rock legend unto herself". The Independent. Retrieved 8 July 2009.
  16. ^ "Uli gives pupils a rock masterclass". Shropshire Star. 14 July 2015. p. 14.Report by Harry Leather. Describes visit to hold a musical masterclass to eight pupils at St Martins School, Shropshire.
  17. ^ Pancella, Jon (February 2013). "Uli Jon Roth: The Best of the TVD Interview". The Vinyl District. Chantilly, Virginia (published 10 May 2013). Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  18. ^ Attendee
  19. ^ "Billy Corgan und Uli Jon Roth (1/6)". YouTube. Archived from the original on 21 December 2021. Retrieved 27 October 2014.
  20. ^ "Thirty Great Guitarists — Including Steve Vai, David Gilmour and Eddie Van Halen — Pick the Greatest Guitarists of All Time". Guitarworld.com. 5 June 2015. Retrieved 8 November 2016.
  21. ^ "MARTY FRIEDMAN: 'I'd Rather Chew Glass Than Listen To JIMI HENDRIX'". Blabbermouth.net. 11 August 2015. Retrieved 5 October 2020.
  22. ^ "FIREWIND Interview!!!". Archived from the original on 2 April 2012. Retrieved 17 June 2011. "Uli Roth is a big influence on me"
  23. ^ ""I've progressively been more inspired by Uli Jon Roth...all his Scorpions work and his more recent solo albums"". Lyraka.com. Retrieved 8 November 2016.[permanent dead link]
  24. ^ "-=Symphony X-Official Website=-". Archived from the original on 21 July 2011. Retrieved 21 July 2011.
  25. ^ ""I was influenced a lot by...Uli Roth. He's a guy who really understands the fine nuances of playing. To bend the note the right way or give it the right kind of tone. That sort of thing I spent a lot of time on myself. And he's a master of it. That kind of stuff is really hard to come by."". Dinosaurrockguitar.com. Retrieved 5 October 2020.
  26. ^ "Exclusive interview with Syu". jame-world.com. 15 December 2006. Retrieved 3 July 2021.
  27. ^ "Testament/Dragonlord's Eric Peterson - my top 5 tips for guitarists: 'I think of my right hand as the drum within my playing; it's in charge of the beat'". musicradar.com. 21 September 2018. Retrieved 29 July 2022.
  28. ^ "Metal-Rules.com: Interview With Force of Evil". Metal-rules.com. Retrieved 8 November 2016.
  29. ^ "instrumentalcase.com". Instrumentalcase.com. Retrieved 8 November 2016.
  30. ^ "Official James Byrd Website". Jamesbyrd.com. Retrieved 8 November 2016.
  31. ^ "Opeth's Fredrik Akesson: the 11 records that changed my life". musicradar.com. Retrieved 3 January 2022.

External links[edit]