Mark Kadzielawa of 69 Faces Of Rock conducted an interview with legendary German guitarist Uli Jon Roth prior to his April 13 concert at The Arcada in St. Charles, Illinois. You can watch the entire interview below. A few excerpts follow (transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).
On whether he's surprised by the reaction from American audiences when he plays songs from his time with SCORPIONS:
Uli: "It was starting to get there. When I left, it was already kind of clear to myself and I guess, the others in the band, that a big success was imminent. We were already successful in Europe and Japan and America was just in the making. So, no, I'm not surprised about it because I know that this kind of music, the American audiences have an ear for it. It's quite obvious when you play these songs, the way they respond."
On how the idea to start his own band, ELECTRIC SUN, was born:
Uli: "That was back in 1977, just before we recorded 'Taken By Force', I really started to write songs that didn't fit the SCORPIONS mode anymore and those were the ones I was interested in. These songs became ELECTRIC SUN songs. Like, for instance, there's a big piece under the name of 'Earthquake'. That one I had already written way before I left the SCORPIONS and I wanted to play it, but I knew it would really not fit into any SCORPIONS albums, so I never brought it to the table. And that was that, really. That was in 1977."
On whether his initial ELECTRIC SUN albums met his expectations:
Uli: "Partially. The closest I got to it was on the third album, 'Beyond The Astral Skies'. I thought I had the best grip on the production on that one, but it was also the hardest to record. Well, it's like a personal kind of love/hate relationship I have with the studio. Once I'm in the recording process, everything's fine, but in the beginning, it's always a struggle for me. I'm never happy with the sounds we're getting, particularly guitar sounds. Since the guitar is my main instrument, that's always a big problem for me. That was from the first day I got into the studio. Even with the SCORPIONS. I remember the first day we walked into the studio, which was, in fact, the first, April 1 of 1974. We set up quickly. Back then, things were very simple. We recorded the first song, which was 'Speedy's Coming'. I hated the guitar sound. It was not the sound I wanted to hear that I was used to in a bigger environment. It was a small room with dead ceilings. To me, it sounded terrible. Now, the fact people still enjoy it and that it kind of sounded okay doesn't mean it couldn't have sounded better. It was not what I wanted. From the first time on, I was always battling the studio sound. It always was not really what I imagined. So, whenever I set up shop in the studio, I'm going through the same painful process. I'll try just about every single imaginable combination of microphones, rooms, whatever. I now know what not to do, where not to go and I know certain rooms that will give me the best results. They're usually large, ambient rooms which are like a concert hall. I'm happiest in these."
On whether he felt fans understood the first few ELECTRIC SUN albums upon their release:
Uli: "No. On the contrary, they got ready a little later. It took one album. On the first album, I got a lot of flak because basically, it didn't meet people's expectations at all. People thought 'Oh, Uli's leaving SCORPIONS. He's going to do 'Virgin Killer' full-on, more.' If that were possible. That was exactly what I didn't want to do. I wanted to do something almost like an anti-album. I was interested in something completely different. A lot of people thought 'Oh yeah, he's lost it.' My guitar wasn't as distorted and I played differently. It was also more [Jimi] Hendrix-y in certain respects. So, the first album was like a very mixed reception. The second album ['Fire Wind'] was received much better because it was more of a rock album and I brought in the guitar to the center again. But the second album, I had the problem that my singing wasn't very good. Quite a few people hated my singing and I can't blame them because it wasn't good. I didn't even want to sing. I sang because I couldn't find anybody else who would fit with the guitar at that time. It was probably the wrong decision. But, on the third album, things started to even out. ELECTRIC SUN began to get a strong cult following in America, so when we came here, we had a tour with a lot of full houses when we played. It was good. In England, it became quite successful. We managed to fill large concert halls and we had a good response, but that was from the second album onwards. It took a little while."
On the changes in rock journalism, which now finds countless webzines popping up in place of print publications:
Uli: "It's a reality the media has completely changed. Also, the quality has changed. Back then, in England or Germany or America, when you had writers, they were like real writers. They knew how to spell; they knew their grammar and there were editors to make sure there was a certain level of quality. Nowadays, you read an interview transcription which is sometimes so bad that I don't even recognize my own words because they just… it's from spelling to whatever. It's sometimes pretty horrendous. Basically, what I'm saying is people mean well, but the quality has really, really dropped. Everything is now more like 'Hey, iPhone, Snapchat, Facebook, McDonald's.' People don't even seem to mind. Photography. Back then, you had photographers who really took it seriously. Now, there are still a few of these around, but they're few and far between. Most people take their iPhones and here's your shot. Everything doesn't look good."
In recent years, Roth has revisited the early music of his period with the SCORPIONS, which resulted in the "Scorpions Revisited" double CD and "Tokyo Tapes Revisited" DVD/Blu-ray releases.
The North American leg of Uli's 50th-anniversary tour kicked off on March 20 at Whisky A Go Go in Los Angeles and will run through May.