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 Jochen "Zeno" Roth (1956–2018).
Dawn Road and Scorpions
Uli 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.
With Scorpions, Uli released four studio albums, Fly to the Rainbow, In Trance, Virgin Killer, and Taken by Force, and one live album, Tokyo Tapes, during his tenure as lead guitarist, main songwriter and occasional lead singer between 1974 and 1977.
Uli Roth formed his own band named Electric Sun, They recorded three albums between 1979 and 1985. Their first album, Earthquake, was released in 1979 (dedicated to the spirit of Jimi Hendrix) and features guitarist/vocalist Uli Roth, bassist Ule Ritgen and drummer Clive Edwards. Edwards departed shortly after recording the first album.
Fire Wind came next in 1981, featuring new drummer Sidhatta Gautama. The band toured for a few years afterwards. While the first two albums were a trio format, the third album was more of an ensemble project. Veteran drummer Clive Bunker, formerly of Jethro Tull, appeared, as did Ritgen, vocalist Michael Flexig and guest vocalist Nicky Moore, as well as an array of additional various singers and orchestral musicians. Another feature of the album was the invention of Uli Roth's Sky Guitar. In 1983, drummer and percussionist Simon Fox worked alongside ex-Jethro Tull drummer Clive Bunker, on drums and timpani.
The name Electric Sun was retired in 1986, and Uli Jon Roth continued to pursue classical-inspired rock, and a focus on other artistic areas, under his own name.
Uli 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. Uli used the name "Uli Jon Roth" for all subsequent album releases and concert appearances.
Uli 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.
Uli 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 Uli had left in 1978. This concert was also filmed and released on the DVD, Live at Wacken Open Air 2006.
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, Uli 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.
Uli 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.)
Uli Roth debuted songs from Under a Dark Sky on July 18, 2008 in his headline set at the G-TARanaki Guitar Festival in New Zealand. This was his first concert in the country. Uli Roth also took his "Sky Academy" tuition classes to Taranaki, Waitara, Inglewood and Ōpunake. Guests musicians included Vernon Reid and Gilby Clarke.
Uli Jon Roth released a two-CD studio album entitled Scorpions Revisited, which was recorded in 2014 in Hanover in early 2015. Uli 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. Uli Roth concluded a short North American tour in March 2017, highlighting songs from both Scorpions Revisited and Tokyo Tapes.
Uli Roth participated a second time at the G3 European tour with Joe Satriani and John Petrucci (Dream Theater) in March 2017. Uli Roth contributed an afterword to the 2017 book Shredders!: The Oral History of Speed Guitar (And More) by Greg Prato.
Uli Roth commissioned construction of custom guitars with additional frets from luthier Andreas Demetriou in the 1980s. Uli 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, Uli 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. For a time, Uli Roth used a Framus Dragon amplifier, although currently he promotes Blackstar Artisan 100 & Series One 200 Watt heads. 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. Dean Guitars produced 25 Custom Sky Guitars based on Roth's custom models with six and seven strings in 2011.
Sky Academy is the title given to guitar innovator Uli Jon Roth's tuition seminars and concerts. Sky Academy was first established in May 2006, at the Ralph Freud Theater at the University Campus of Los Angeles. Uli teaches a holistic approach to music making, which comprises lectures, master classes, concentration exercises and special concerts. The teaching emphasis is on awakening and strengthening the students' musical potential and on showing ways of how to connect more deeply with music.
This is achieved largely through heightening the general musical awareness level and also by broadening the overall musical and artistic horizon of the students. Uli is seen as an Inspired Teacher who mainly teaches by opening up new vistas of inspiration. His teaching approach encourages the creative, artistic aspects of music making, and even embraces metaphysical subjects such as inspiration, but at the same time it doesn't neglect the importance of craftsmanship.
Guest teachers or speakers are another important part of Sky Academy. Usually they tend to share the stage with Uli Roth while he interviews them. So far these have included: Anrew Shulman (Principal Cellist Los Angeles Philharmonic, LA Chamber Orchestra & Conductor) - subjects: Cello, stringed instruments, conducting orchestras, Robby Krieger (The Doors) Subject: song-writing & Q&A, Bruce Dukhov (concert master of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra)- subject: Violin playing, Bach Partita, Ben Woods (Flametal) - Flamenco guitar and dance, Further guest speakers have been Michael-Angelo Batio (Manowar), Joe Stump (Alcatrazz), Vernon Reid (Living Colour), Gilby Clarke (Guns N' Roses), and Leon Hendrix.
Sky Academy 2006 included three extensive concerts which took place during the course of the 5-day seminar. They were designed to invoke the spirit of musical freedom and featured many special guests, apart from Uli's band. Stage guests included Warren De Martini (Ratt), Don Dokken (Dokken), Tony Franklin (The Firm), Rob Pagliari, Chris Poland (Megadeth), Kofi Baker, Chris Impellitteri (Impellitteri), Jeff Scott Soto (Sons of Apollo), Francis Buchholz (Scorpions) and Robby Krieger (The Doors).
In August 2007 Uli held a further 2 Sky Academy concerts and seminar at the Hollywood MI with Paul Gilbert (Mr. Big), Michael Angelo Batio (Manowar), Ule Ritgen (Electric Sun), George Bellas, Roy Z (Halford), Robby Krieger (The Doors), Mark Boals (Ring of Fire) and Johnny Hiland (The 3 J's).
The first international Sky Academy was in July 2008, as part of the G-TARanaki Guitar Festival in New Plymouth, Taranaki, New Zealand. A different format to the US Sky Academy saw Uli giving three workshops at regional high schools in Waitara, Inglewood and Opunake with guests Gilby Clarke and Vernon Reid. Uli then headlined the TSB Stadium with his Sky Of Avalon band featuring a guesting Alex Skolnick (Testament).
A third Sky Academy US seminar was held again in Los Angeles in September 2008, followed by Sky Academy Arizona and Nordenham (Germany). Guests at the concerts included Doug Aldrich (The Dead Daisies) and Chris Caffery (Trans-Siberian Orchestra).
Initially, Uli 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. In 1971 he began studying piano and classical guitar. His influences broadened, now including spanish guitar virtuoso Andrés Segovia and violinist Yehudi Menuhin.
Uli Roth's solo on Scorpions'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. Of note, Metallica's Kirk Hammett famously quoted a portion of this solo on "Battery", the opening song of Master of Puppets (1986).
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. Uli Roth employs major and minor pentatonic, the blues scale, phrygian, harmonic minor, diminished, and the whole tone scale.
Uli Jon Roth was romantically involved with artist Monika Dannemann who was with Jimi Hendrix when he died. Uli Roth and Monika Danneman collaborated on various songs including "We'll Burn the Sky" from Scorpions' Taken by Force.
Monika 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 Kathy Etchingham asked the judge to jail Monika 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, but Uli Roth publicly stated his opinion that her death was the result of foul play.
He dedicated his later works to the memory of Monika Dannemann.
Uli Roth has been living in the UK for several years. His current home (as of 2015) is in Llansilin in Powys.
Uli Roth has been a vegetarian since the Scorpions days.
This was an effort to raise money for helping the church.
Uli Roth has been on the cover of many guitar magazines and has influenced many notable guitar players including:
Sky of Avalon - Prologue to the Symphonic Legends (1996) (with Sky Orchestra)
Transcendental Sky Guitar Vol. I & II (2000) live
Legends Of Rock: Live At Castle Donington (2002, DVD & CD) live
Metamorphosis of Vivaldi's Four Seasons (2003) (with Sky Orchestra)
Under A Dark Sky (Sky of Avalon) (2008)
Scorpions Revisited (2015) live
Tokyo Tapes Revisited - Live in Japan (2016), DVD & CD) live