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Guitarist John Haliwell has just put out the debut album from Enzign, a great hard rock record for all fans of Y&T/Ten/Whitesnake. He is also a founder member of Ten, who kept the flame burning for UK melodic rock since the late 90's.

1. What are you currently up to?

I've just finished doing the guitars for the 'Once and Future King' project (a concept album written by Gary Hughes based around the legend of King Arthur) and I am about to start the guitars for a Ten acoustic album then I'll begin work on the next Ten studio album. I am also busy writing the follow-up to 'Cast the First Stone'.

2. What has been the highlight(s) and lowpoints(s) of your career to date?

The highlight has to be the first gig that Ten played in Japan, it was at Club Citta in 1997. The reaction we got was incredible and I'll never forget it. The gig was reviewed in Burrn magazine and there we were before Kiss in the reviews section, I knew we had arrived. As for low points I can't really think of any, I don't think in the negative, all bands have ups and downs its the nature of the beast, you just have to think positive and move forward.

3. Who have been your main influences on your career to date?

When I was younger I was really into Kiss. But I also love all the classic bands e.g. Purple, Rainbow, Thin Lizzy, Whitesnake, AC/DC, Sabbath and heavier stuff like Metalica and Megdeth plus I love early Queensryche in fact anything that is guitar based, I love guitar bands.

4. How did you first get into the music business?

The usual really, playing in bands when I was at college and doing the pubs and clubs circuit. During the late 80's I was in Manchester band Kage.We did a gig supporting Gary Hughes' Big Bad Wolf at Rockworld. Years later when Gary was looking for a second guitar player he remembered me and asked a mutual friend if I was interest in joining the newly formed Ten. I went down to the studio and heard the mixes of the first record, after listening the opening track I said 'yes' immediately. I knew that this band was something special.

5. The new album has a classic hard rock vibe. Could you take us through a few highlights of the album and how these songs started out?

'Cast the First Stone' is an 8 minute epic, very much in the traditional classic rock vain. We wanted something big to open the record with lots of mood changes. With '6th Sense' we deliberately wanted to include a heavier track on the album. Particularly one where we could express some of our heavier darker influences. I came up with the riff for the chorus and Marks lyric sprang to mind after seeing the film. The track then really did guide its self. Bit spooky really! It works well as track 2 because it shows a completely different side to our song writing. 'Midnight' was an idea Mark brought in after waking up one morning and switching on the TV to none stop news of Diana's accident in Paris. We worked on the track and gave a not so rock-n-roll subject a very epic sound.

With 'Keepers of the Kingdom', we wanted the intro lyric to have the feel of some wise ancient text so the rest of the lyric could show how far we have strayed from that idea that an intelligent species would not destroy the only home they had. We may now be just starting to see the first signs of the damage we've done over the last 200 years. Musically I think the track has some quite hard rock guitar riffs which are balanced with very commercial backing vocals and a really interesting guitar solo. One of our favourites anyway. It was actually one of the first songs Mark and I wrote together.

'The One' started life on one of those nights when you exchange strange stories with friends. What we discussed that night formed the basis of the songs early narrative. So it is based around a true story. We actually finished an early version of the song (stranger than fiction) but as the album took shape we felt that we could do more with it and eventually totally re-recorded it!

'Holding a Gun' is an observation of the gun culture worldwide and what may, or may not motivate such people who feel they have to carry a gun, or even worse use it.

'Lazarus' is a track that is very personal to me. I saw both my father and brother die in the same year. I remember thinking where do we do go after this? Lazarus was the guy in the Bible who came back from the dead. The song is basically asking the one big question 'Is there life after death?'

'Dangerous in Daylight' and 'Endless Seas' show the light and shade of our song writing. There are no keyboards whatever on the record. I wanted to try and create mood by just using acoustic guitars. Not the Cubase programming thing. Just honest guitar playing and emotional vocals.

6. How did the band come together and are there any plans to tour at all?

Around the time of joining Ten in '97 I had a band with Ged Rylands (ex Ten keyboard player). He brought in Mark Sumner to sing on some tracks we were working on. Mark and I started writing together and it worked really well. Mark in turn brought in Matt Pearce to lay down some drums and we've been working together ever since, writing and recording in the 'down time' when I am not busy with Ten. Mark Alger at Z Records has thrown one or two ideas regarding touring, and we'd love to play, but at this moment in time its too early to say when or where any gigs will be.

7. What has been the highlight so far of your days in Ten?

Apart from the first gig in Japan I'd say playing my first open air festival in Budapest last year (on the same bill as Manowar and Slayer) that was fantastic.

8. How did the tour with Asia go last year? What are Ten's plans for this year?

I really enjoyed the gigs and Asia were great they treated us really well. Playing such a short set enabled us to go for it without holding back to pace ourselves (as in Japan). I particularly remember the Nottingham Rock City show, we were really cooking on that night and I think for Chris (Francis) it was the first gig that he really relaxed and showed people what he could do. Gary was also fired up and I have rarely seen him so animated on stage. I also enjoyed the London gig, great crowd. Tens plans are to finish the next album, which is already well under way. Do the acoustic tracks and hopefully get that out as well. Then we should be touring later in the year (U.K. Europe, Japan) in support of the record.

9. What do you do in your spare time outside of music?

Spare time, what's that then? No really music is all that I do, when I do get some time I usually relax by either walking or cycling, it helps to keep me fit and stops me getting fat.

10. Message to your fans...

The Ten fans are the greatest, thanks for standing by us over the last 7 years, your loyalty means everything to us. Hope to see you all on tour later this year.

Interview © 2003 Jason Ritchie/
Format and edit: The Music Index.

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