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“I was never really interested in great guitar playing if the other stuff wasn’t there”: Uli Jon Roth on why he never got in Van Halen

“It just wasn’t my world.”

[L-R] Uli Jon Roth and Eddie Van Halen

Credit: Frank Hoensch/Redferns via Getty Images [L], Lynn Goldsmith/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images [R]

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To many rock fans, criticism of Van Halen is tantamount to sacrilege. But while the band was – and still is – regarded as one of the genres best, that doesn’t mean they’re everyone’s cup of tea.

In the case of guitarist Uli Jon Roth – who quit Scorpions in 1977 after becoming disenfranchised with the rock genre – Van Halen were “not my kind of music”.

“You know, it may sound a little weird, but it did pass me by,” Roth says in a new interview with Jeremy White [transcribed by Ultimate Guitar]. “That was the time when I left the Scorpions, and I put the entire rock thing kind of behind me at that moment. I just didn’t listen to anything. I heard of him, and I saw that his tapping was really impressive, but I never did listen to any of the albums, because it was not my kind of music.”

Roth goes on to admit that while no one can dispute Eddie Van Halen’s technical ability, for him personally, technical guitar playing isn’t something he looks for in the music he listens to.

“It was too much a little bit like happy entertainment kind of stuff – [but had] great guitar playing,” he continues. “But then, I was never really interested in great guitar playing if the other stuff wasn’t there. So, it just wasn’t my world, and I didn’t really check it out. That’s just it. 

“But I do know they were influenced [by the Scorpions]. Before they were famous, they played several of our songs. I think they played Catch Your Train and, and you can hear it in [some Van Halen] licks. I got those licks from Brahms’ violin concerto [laughs].”

Last month, Uli Jon Roth spoke about his “mind-blowing” experience seeing Jimi Hendrix play live, noting how he was determined to achieve the same sound.

“I saw him play when I was a kid, I just turned 14 or whatever – I don’t quite remember – January ’69, I saw him play in concert in Hamburg, and it was mind-blowing, quite literally,” he said.

“The sound was like from hyperspace. The guitar sounded like some superhuman being from space. Those sounds were completely new back then. Nobody sounded like that. And I soaked that up, and I wanted that sound. I can still remember it.”

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