Shropshire Star

Ex-Scorpions legend Uli Jon Roth talks about 50 years in rock and his 'reclusive' life near Oswestry

In the mainstream music world, not many people may have heard of Uli Jon Roth, but in the world of rock, the former Scorpions guitarist is one of the most inspirational musicians to have ever picked up a plectrum.

Uli Jon Roth on stage

Notable guitar legends including Eddie Van Halen, Metallica's Kirk Hammett, Yngwie Malmsteen, Steve Vai and Joe Satriani have all cited the German guitarist as one of their main influences.

But Uli, who now lives in a small village just outside Oswestry on the Shropshire-Welsh border, says his lack of mainstream success is not something that has ever bothered him.

Speaking ahead of a tour that will bring him to Wolverhampton in November, he said: !I'm aware that I am this inspirational guitarist because people make me aware of it, but at the beginning I just did what I really was interested in doing and for some reason, afterwards, others cottoned on to these things that I found," he said.

"I was always interesting in exploring new ground and doing things that I never heard before and some of that has left a mark, even with the mainstream players."

Uli Jon Roth, who lives near Oswestey, is to hit the road again

Uli left Scorpions as lead guitarist after five albums in 1977, just before the German band went on to have huge commercial success with records such as Rock You Like A Hurricane and Winds Of Change, but the 69-year-old says he was heading in a different direction to the other band members.

"Scorpions at that time were a bit of an outsider in Germany as we looked to England and America and sang in English," he said.

"For us, rock music came from England it didn't come from Germany, so it was obvious it should be sung in English," Uli recalled.

"I guess I was always too left-field to become mainstream as there is a certain unpredictability to my output.

"I didn't really understand the whole commercial thing as such. I never really cared about these aspects, how many records we sold whatever. Other members of Scorpions were aware of that and were very committed into doing that to have the world-wide success. For me, that wasn't the driving force."

Guitar legend Uli Jon Roth

The Dusseldorf-born guitarist says that while rock music was his first love, by the time he left Scorpions, he had fallen in love with classical music, which began to inspire his output.

"I started very much began being into rock with the Beatles and so forth," he said.

"But very soon I heard these classical pieces and realised there is a whole different world out there and it is on such a higher level. I started to be inspired by it and the natural progression was to bring it into the rock side of things."

Uli went on to form his own band, Electric Sun, before spending several decades touring as a solo artist, but his fusion of blues-based rock with European classical music also led him to questions the limits of the humble electric guitar.

"As early as even in Scorpions days, my guitar solos always ended up on a high note and I found I always wanted to play a note higher but the guitar has a limit," he remembered.

"So I started think about how an instrument would work that allows me to play significantly higher notes, and that is how the Sky Guitars came about."

Having built the first one 40 years ago, the six octave Sky Guitar, which Uli brands his "dream machine" and now sells (although he admits "they cost the earth") has become his signature instrument, although the 68-year-old found himself abandoning guitar playing for two years during the pandemic.

"I think I had done too much touring and I felt I was in a bit of a hamster wheel of my own making and wasn't aware of it until we had to stop, which made me reflect on things," he said.

"So I didn't have the feeling that I wanted to play the guitar for quite a long time and I thought it would be interesting to see what happens."

When a concert was arranged at the end of the pandemic, things soon clicked back into place, he remembered.

"We did three days of rehearsals and my fingers were very soft and the first two days were very painful, but as soon as I touched the guitar, nothing was lost," he said.

"These things don't leave you. Most of it is in the mind, it's not a physical thing. Once you learn to swim you know it for the rest of your life."

Having spent much of his life touring the world, Uli prefers a much more "reclusive" life in his home near Oswestry.

"I found this house on the internet on the border of Wales and Shropshire near the Welsh mountains. I had lived in Aberystwyth before for nine years so I ended up in Wales again and I am very happy here," he said.

"I don't know if it is the Welsh way of life, but I have my own way of life. I live on the edge of a small village. It is a bit reclusive but that is the way I like it because I travel so much. At home I enjoy countryside and nothing but countryside."

Uli performing at a church concert in Powys (picture Uli Roth Facebook)

His life on the Welsh border is not always "reclusive", however. In 2019, the rocker gave a performance at Llansilin Church in Powys, where he played Vivaldi's Four Seasons on his guitar. And in 2015, he even accepted an invitation by St Martins School to give a music lesson.

Uli giving a music lessons to students at St Martins School in Shropshire in 2015

Uli is also going back on the road in November when he embarks on a UK tour, before he heads to the United States next year.

You can catch Uli Jon Roth at KK’s Steel Mill in Wolverhampton on Tuesday, November 21. Tickets and further information are available at