How are you? Other than the cold you’re sporting?
We’re doing fine, the whole band has this little cold that we can’t shake off! Ever since we did the mediteranian cruise. *band member sneezes* Oh, look at him! *laughs*
We keep re-infecting each other, just this little cough that reappearing. I felt it this morning, but other than that, no big deal. On with the show
So, this is the second date of the UK tour?
Well, We’ve just been to Ireland. We did Rory Gallagher and it was a nice thing to do because I love Rory and i’ve had the opportunity to have a few shows on the same stage. Not together with them, but yeah. We then did Northern Ireland and two more in the UK so far with two more to go. Tomorrow in South Shields, near Newcastle.
Was the festival set a homage to Rory, or did you play your own set?
Oh no, no, no. We were there to do our set. Most artists go there just to do their own thing. The festival is in the spirit of Rory and it’s to honour his memory as it’s in Ballaychannon, the town where he was born, though apparently he recorded most of his stuff down South in Cork. but we did our own thing, but we did do one Rory Gallagher song. It was a very early Taste song ‘Born on the wrong side of time’ and we really enjoyed doing it, intact i think we’re going to do it again one day.
The scorpions revisited tour - Why only now? From a fans view there seems to have always been a demand for Uli era Scorpions.
Yeah, that is a good question. I’ll tell you… ten years ago, i wouldn’t have though I was going to be doing that. My mind was always in different places and I had really disconnected from my own past, from my earlier past and for me it really was just the past. everyone in a while i’d play a couple of the old songs but it wasn’t really a full-on dedicated issue, but things have changed, y’know and someone suggested to me to play a whole tour of these early Scorpions songs because nobody does, the Scorpions do this stuff anymore because they play the more recent stuff, mainly, and if I don’t do it then nobody does it and I figured yeah, that person has a point, and then I started thinking about it and thought okay, lets give it a go - step back into my own past and that was really it and It was quite an experience and it was way more enjoyable than I would have thought because the music was quite different from the stuff i’ve been doing in recent years which has been more, umm, shall we say ‘eclectic’ or ‘adventurous’, maybe a little more complex, but the early stuff has a lot going for it. Strong melodies and it’s very pure, original 70s rock which not a lot of bands play anymore nowadays. Some of that stuff was… not at the very beginning but kind of the second phase of rock right after Deep purple, I would say.
SCR: Do you find that after your time with Scorpions they went to a more commercial sound? When you were with them, the albums seemed to borderline Prog?
UJR: They were certainly more free flow. They were not really as calculated but after I left their song writing abilities kept improving and Rudolph and Klaus just wrote great classic songs so that had a lot to do with their success of getting bigger and bigger.
SCR: Scorps are now known for their catchy choruses and melodies, you can’t help but love it.
UJR: Exactly! Most people can not do that, thats a special gift and Scorpions have always been strong with melody. I think, more than anything, that has set that band apart. A lot of great rock bands are good on stage, with great riffs and what not, but to me Scorpions were very melodic in slightly different way, the kind of melodies that just don’t stop going round and round in a circle and I like that. Im proud I was in that band in the formative years and we’re still on good terms.
Did you part ways from Scorpion to solely pursue your own sound?
Yes, absolutely. I mean, I was very happy while I was in the band but there was a time when I though I want to be able to express myself even more freely, although I had pretty much all the freedom in the world in the band but it was still a band within a certain self imposed framework which would have been wrong to compromise, so I started writing songs that didn’t fit that framework anymore, so I wrote two different types of songs when I was with them at the end.. like ‘Sails of Charon’ - that was suitable but then I wrote other stuff like my Electric Sun stuff that was more like Earthquake and that was totally not suitable for Scorpions which would have been like a deal breaker, really I had no choice, it was a very natural progression. A lot of people thought I was crazy but Maybe so if you see it just in terms of material success, which most people probably would do but I was driven by a different kind of instinct.
So, you parted ways when you seen the change in the direction of the band?
Yeah there was partially a direction that I wasn’t so happy with towards the end but that was not the reason. The reason was the stuff I wanted to write didn’t fit. We were good friends, there was nothing else wrong other than the fact I really wanted to move on and five years was enough in that framework and I wanted to explore music in many different ways and wanted to take control of that. I saw myself as somebody who was exploring music rather than just selling albums. That’s not taking anything away from the Scorpions, they did what they wanted to do and they did it in a great way its just a horses for courses sort of thing
SCR: During the time you left Scorpions, there is a dramatic shift in sound - Was this due to loss of UJR input or a sign of the times?
I’m sure it was both. The 80s were about to start - the 80s were a very different period form the 70s. Looking back, I remember it was a complete change just like when the 70s started, they were totally different from the 60’s. I remember that feeling very clearly, Something changed. It was almost like the 70s were an era and the 60’s were an era and then the 80s was so different and the Scorpions went very much with the time. They were a child of the 70’s but they became a child of the 80’s and they were a part of that wave, they co created it and I was more of an outsider. I was not really dialling into the 80s thing. I was dialling into something i don’t know, completely different and certainly swimming against the mainstream.
Yeah, it worked. The ‘Electric Sun’ stuff was pretty successful here in the UK. It had a lot of fans back then, it just wasn’t commercial in a sense, it was more of a step away.
Would you say your style was drawn from any of these particular eras?
Well, I found my way relatively early. I started with The Beatles before I learned guitar, But when I learned electric guitar I went into the blues first with Blues Breakers and Eric Clapton, Cream - I guess were my most important influences and then with the Scorpions I found a way to express myself with this framework and then came classical and flamenco music, I loved that also. You don’t hear that very often in Scorpions, you hear it a little but more and more that comes to the forefront so I guess my roots are a mixture of various styles. Even types of ethnic music, I used to listen to.. well, used to listen to all sorts of things and then at some point I kind of stopped listening as I wasn’t so interested anymore. I found a way that I wanted to travel and I wanted to explore it myself.
SCR: Are you listening to new music at the moment?
Not really. It’s not that I’m closing my ears, y’know? I don’t even have a record player or CD player. It’s very rare that I hear something other than on tour from other band etc.
SCR: I suppose you have to be completely submerged in what you’re doing as an artist?
UJR: Not even that. Music is a huge part of my life in the sense that it takes a huge part of my subconscious, but… I play very little music and I listen to very little music and theres never any music in the background, it’s always silent. I just like to think. It’s not important about how much music I hear and make, It’s really about the quality. Each time I pick up the guitar it feels new and i’m excited about it. If I played it all the time I wouldn’t get that and I really don’t need to play it a lot. Sometimes I only play when I’m on stage. I’ve been playing this classical guitar lately *picks up guitar*, I played this style a lot when I was young and suddenly just didn’t do it anymore but they gave me this recently so I like to play it on stage. Every night I’m improvising a piece and I like that.
SCR: Have you got any more projects or collaborations up your sleeve?
ULI: There has been several such suggestions and many things in the air but nothing 100% confirmed. There’s a lot I would like to do but theres always a lot on and i’ve learned over the years that every project you start just builds up. I mean, two years ago I wrote a new album and I’m actually very pleased with that material but i’ve not been able to actually go to the studio and record it yet and theres something wrong with that picture, somehow! I’m beginning to think i’ve got so much stuff in my drawer that I really want to finish and record and so I need to find a way to do that somehow, you know? If I do projects as in collaborations, as interesting as they probably would be it pushes these things further back, so I don’t know. It’s certainly possible.
SCR: Back last year you played with Steve Vai and Steve Morse on a Hendrix based project. Can we talk about that?
ULI: Yes. That is such a project, for instance. Steve Vai and I get on fabulously and we really understand one another when it comes to the artistic thing and I also really like him as a person and yeah, were thinking about maybe doing some more shows like that as we really enjoyed it.
Steve Morse is always tied up, he plays so much and it’s really hard to plan these things in advance and Steve Vai is now saying just what I’ve been saying; he needs to record his new album and he’s taking a year off and playing very little this year. Thats not the only project like that. There are other project that could, and might happen but to actually make it happen you need all the people to say “okay, lets do it now!” but usually most of the people that I know that are good or successful have very little time on the side because they’re constantly on the road. it’s not easy. Theres always possibility. Example; The G3 tour was the one that got me back on tour and made me realise I liked being back on the road. Other than the actual gig, i’ve always liked to play shows but hanging around buses and airports just really got on my nerves. I felt like I was wasting my time. I wanted to do other things and on tour I wasn’t able to do that so much. Now i’ve found a way to work quite comfortably on tour with my laptop or whatever. It’s now easy on tour but yeah, it was Joe Satriani that got me back to touring… Thanks Joe! *laughs*