"In Scorpions days I sometimes ran out of frets because I wanted to play higher": Uli Jon Roth on his iconic guitars, onstage danger, and reconnecting with an old friend

Uli Jon Roth onstage
(Image credit: Lee Millward)

And after dealing with some health issues, former Scorpions guitarist Uli Jon Roth will be packing his iconic Sky guitars into their flight cases and embarking on a UK Tour on November 30. 

The dates arrive in the wake of the long-awaited rerelease of Earthquake, the 1979 solo album Roth released after his departure from the Scorpions, which has been newly transferred, restored and remastered at Dierks Studios in Pulheim, Germany.

"I am really looking forward to playing the UK again after such a long time!" says Roth. "It feels great to see that all of my previous releases will now become available again for my existing fans and a whole new generation of audience which we see emerging.”

Below, Roth previews the upcoming shows.


In May you had a kidney removed, forcing the postponement of a US tour. How are you feeling? 

I’m okay, thanks. That was four months ago. The surgery healed well and I’m feeling fine. 

Incredibly, you appeared as a special guest of Saxon at a festival in Sweden in the summer. 

Within a month, yeah. It sounds foolish, but after seven days I was recording in the studio. People told me I looked like death warmed up, but I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. 

So obviously you expect to be well enough for these nine shows in ten days in November? 

It’ll be fine. After the WinterStorm Festival [in Scotland on November 24] I have a day off. The doctors are absolutely okay with that. This summer I did nine festivals in various counties, and I feel very, very well. 

What kind of a show are you planning? 

It’s a kind of ‘best of’ show, it will be colourful. There will be a lot of Scorpions songs, also some songs by [Roth’s post-Scorpions band] Electric Sun, including a couple that we haven’t played before, and some new pieces. I play one song with my nine-string Flamenco Sky guitar. 

Apart from having nine strings, how else does the Sky guitar differ from a regular guitar? 

There are quite a few differences. They enable me to do a lot of things that otherwise are impossible. Because they have extra frets, they bring a lot of extra register. Even in Scorpions days I sometimes ran out of frets because I wanted to play higher.

Will it be a long show? 

All of my shows are kind of on the long side [laughs]. Probably around two hours, with a lot of improvisation during the encore. I like there to be a little – quote-unquote – danger on stage. It keeps things interesting. 

What can you tell us about the new album that you are recording? 

I’m making it at Dierks Studio in Cologne. I’ve reconnected with Dieter Dierks, the old producer of the Scorpions. I will play a couple of the new songs during the tour. 

Is it a rock album? 

My albums are a little hard to define. It’s a rock album, but it also has some acoustic pieces with Flamenco guitar. The music I write now is a hybrid. I don’t know where one genre starts or ends, they are very much intermingled. 

We’ll hear the results via your new record label, Alpha Experium

For years I didn’t take much interest in my releases. I didn’t even know some of them were out of print. So it was time to show my catalogue some respect. The first to be re-released is Earthquake [by Electric Sun, from 1979], the first one I made after leaving the Scorpions. It has new artwork and has been remastered to recapture the original sound. 

Earlier this year your five albums with the Scorpions were re-released. What memories do you have of that period from 1973 to 1978? 

Those were great times. The comradeship grew as the band improved, and we made quantum leaps with each album. When I left it was because I knew there was no place for the songs that became Earthquake. It wasn’t as commercial as the Scorpions, but although Electric Sun was an ‘outsider’ band, we played Hammersmith Odeon twice, so I like to think we did pretty well.

Uli Jon Roth's UK tour begins in Cardiff on November 30, and will be followed by US dates in April 2024. Get tickets

Dave Ling

Dave Ling was a co-founder of Classic Rock magazine. His words have appeared in a variety of music publications, including RAW, Kerrang!, Metal Hammer, Prog, Rock Candy, Fireworks and Sounds. Dave’s life was shaped in 1974 through the purchase of a copy of Sweet’s album ‘Sweet Fanny Adams’, along with early gig experiences from Status Quo, Rush, Iron Maiden, AC/DC, Yes and Queen. As a lifelong season ticket holder of Crystal Palace FC, he is completely incapable of uttering the word ‘Br***ton’.