Innovative “sky guitarist” Uli Jon Roth, he of Scorpions’ best albums, is a cosmic hippie with a creative streak a comet’s tail long.
His new album, Under A Dark Sky, represents a most seamless synthesis of rock and classical stylings.
No longer colorfully ensconced in a mansion on a Welsh cliffside, Uli’s new home back in Germany serves as a base of operations as he gets ready to tour, ready to create anew and even ready to paint!
But it’s his canny and complete hybrid of orchestration that forms the unique, ethereal form of shred called Under A Dark Sky.
“Well, that’s, of course, what I was striving for, to do it in such a way that you don’t even know that it’s a marriage,” begins Roth, always enthusiastic when art is on the table for discussion.
“There are always a lot of challenges whenever I start out on a new venture, because they just seem to arise. And I guess it’s just my nature to try and explore uncharted territory, or where there is a territory that I haven’t charted enough, I try to go a bit deeper.”
For Roth, the new record allows for expanded musical exploration.
“This one really is very much kind of a continuation — or a child — of all the stuff that has gone before; for me it’s a natural progression,” says Roth. “Particularly from the Sky Of Avalon to the Symphonic Legends, that I did in ’95. In between, I did all the festivals with the Sky Guitar stuff, where I was exploring the guitar more intensely. I think on this one I tried to… well, maybe not combine the two, but [tried] to have an organic approach, to have the guitar integrated as a full member into the whole thing almost like another voice. And, of course, the voices are very dominant. I’m privileged to work with such great singers — Liz (Vandall) and Mark (Boals) — and that gave me carte blanche to write no-holds-barred vocal passages, which they just lapped up, I would have to say. Not many singers could have done that.”
Why this title and why this cover art? And what does it denote to Roth?
“The title is a reflection of what this album is all about,” says Roth. “It’s a concept album. I think, when I first came up with the idea for this album, like two years ago, when I wrote a lot of that stuff, to me, it’s a reflection of what goes on in this world today. Not so much in a physical, material sense, but in more of a metaphysical way. I [have felt] recently that we do live under a dark sky, and we do live in worrying times, and I felt the years before, when we grew up, like the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, they were a little bit more carefree. And now, so many things have happened on the world stage that I think give us a lot of cause for concern. That has always been the case, but we do live in a very strange time, and the album reflects that. And, for me as an artist, I think it’s my kind of calling — not to use a lofty word — but to voice some of that in artistic terms. Because that’s what I’m here for, to express things in an artistic way that I feel should be expressed.”
There’s an apocalyptic feeling to the record, almost a sense of the Rapture that comes across, and Roth is aware of that.
“There is some of that, you know,” says Roth. “I’m not, by nature, a pessimistic person at all. In fact, I’m totally the opposite — very much an optimist. But, also, I’m not — at least I don’t think I am — naïve. We have crossed so many thresholds in the last 10 years or so, in terms of scientific, technological and political developments. The old order that used to be there… a l