Uli Jon Roth Doesn’t Like Modern Metal, Calls It a ’Caricature of What It Once Was’

Guitar legend Uli Jon Roth, also known for working with Scorpions back in the day, recently had a chat with BraveWords at the 70000 Tons of Metal cruise. Among other things, Roth gave his take on metal and modern metal in general, explaining why he’s not exactly the biggest fan of the genre.

And it’s somewhat weird since Uli Jon Roth has inspired so many metal guitar players over the years with his unique neo-classical style. The whole thing was brought up while he was discussing how blues music inspired him. Asked about the matter, he replied:

“Initially, yes. But I was inspired by the second generation. B.B. King, and Freddie King, those were the people, Albert King, those were the people who Jeff Beck looked up to in this generation. And I looked up to people like Eric Clapton to start with. Hendrix came a little bit later for me, and Jeff Beck came even later for me.

Uli Jon Roth live | Rockpalast | 2018

“But then, of course, being in love with the guitar, I checked out the roots, and I checked out Albert King, and I thought, ‘Wow. Yeah’, I could tell where Jimi Hendrix got his ‘Red House’ from. There was a lot of Albert King there, and of course, B.B. King. So, I relate to that, and I used to play the Blues, initially.

“But there came a point where I started to move more towards the classical and moved away from the Blues. But to this day what is still in my playing is these bendy, wailing notes, which comes from the Blues, including the Blue notes.

To Roth, blues is a musical style that he incorporated into his original music, rather than something that he aimed for. Mixing blues and classical might seem “sacrilegious” to some, as he explained. Nonetheless, Uli went with his approach. He continued:

“And my way then was to kind of bring that and mix that in with the classical approach, which is sacrilegious for both worlds, I suppose. But, it kind of, for me, it works. I ended up playing things like Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons‘ concertos, which is a violin concerto, on the lead guitar, and playing it with the feel of a rock guitar player although I know exactly how to do it the puritan classical way. I chose to do it in this way.

Uli Jon Roth - "The Sails of Charon (Scorpions)" (1/31/23) 70000 Tons of Metal

“And a lot of people in the classic world, they really understood that, and they liked it, and they said, ‘Yeah, absolutely’. But there was one guy who said, ‘That’s obscene vibrato!’, and he was right. He got it.

“I mean, the word ‘obscene’ in terms of classical playing, baroque playing, I put some Hendrix vibrato into Vivaldi, and to some puritan people in the classical world, that’s absolute sacrilege and the height of bad taste. I’m guilty of this, and I’m a little bit proud of it because I think the end result was quite exhilarating. At least for my ears!”

Scorpions - Sails Of Charon - Musikladen TV (16.01.1978)

And, as we all know by now, blues music ultimately inspired the creation of heavy metal. Asked whether he found this interesting, he replied positively but also added that today’s metal bands aren’t as daring as their predecessors from the old days. He said:

“Oh yeah, absolutely. Of course. There would be no heavy metal without bands like Cream and Led Zeppelin up front. But all of these are completely different from what metal is nowadays.”

“They were a lot more daring, they were a lot more dangerous in the true sense of the word, because all that stuff had never been done before. It felt that way. I remember what it felt like to listen to Jimi Hendrix back then, it was revolutionary, the sound. Now, the metal of the ‘80s and ‘90s became a lot more corporate.”

Uli Jon Roth Incredible Acoustic Guitar Solo

“It became – they used more aggression, louder, faster, whatever – thinking that this would make it more ‘dangerous’. But, to me, it isn’t. These other elements are more in the field of being creative and coming top with something really new.”

“So, metal actually didn’t really bring that much new. I felt it was, in a way, a step back. Because all these bands like Cream, Hendrix, these trailblazers, Led Zeppelin… Of course, the Yardbirds very early on. But also then, later, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, they all had one thing in common. They were playing loud, wild — The Who — but extremely dynamical within that.”

“Now, this dimension of dynamics, in metal it doesn’t exist. The foot is always, the pedal is, always at 120. Not at 110, at 120. The speed is very often, like, totally over the top, and everything is hyper distorted and hyper aggressive, down to the last-minute detail.”

Uli Jon Roth - We'll Burn The Sky & In Trance - Guitare en Scène 2014 - LIVE HD

“So, it’s almost like a caricature of what it once was, and that is what it sounds like to me. That’s why I’m not a fan of metal, never have been.”

Going into this issue further, Uli also pondered what metal actually is. Although a widely established musical movement, it could mean a lot of different things to different people, even some big names within the genre. He continued:

“But, then again, what is metal? Like, if I speak to Bruce Dickinson, for instance, and we had this discussion once. I said, ‘You’re not really metal, you’re a hard rock band’, and he completely agrees, you know? Because Maiden is still old-school. They still play with these dynamics.”

Iron Maiden - La Défense Arena, Paris (26.06.2022) • FULL MULTICAM CONCERT

“Yes, they play distorted, but they still have this old-school kind of organic touch, this organic feel, which you can touch with your hands almost.”

“Metal always has an abrasive edge that I don’t like. So, that’s why I’m not a big fan of metal. Never have been, never will be.”

“Are there good bands in metal? Of course there are. Are there some great pieces? Yes, of course there are, I don’t deny any of that. It’s just, most of it doesn’t speak to me.”

Photo: Markus Felix | PushingPixels (20180520 Gelsenkirchen RockHard Uli Jon Roth 0148)

  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at Ultimate-Guitar.com, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor and brands like Sam Ash.