Interview with Gwen Bartolini of Grigori 3 12/26/2017

By Dan Locke

GRIGORI -(gri gore E) 3

The name relates to a race of angels found throughout celestial history, which were sent to earth to merely WATCH over mankind. However they ended up corrupting it instead by their own selfish needs + 3, the number of completion.

The hard hitting female fronted dark edged alternative rock artists GRIGORI 3, have showed absolutely no mercy on their audiences since their emergence in the Chicago scene the past decade. GRIGORI 3, founded by Ray & Gwen, have been enchanting audiences with some of the most powerful mind crunching metal in the region.

The independent female fronted Chicago based band have been spring boarding their way up to the top of the Underground Alternative music scene since they started. The band’s ability to cross genres enabled GRIGORI 3 to perform with numerous national acts. Their epic type music has been featured at various in various recordings and soundtracks as well as Chicago’s live music scene. The band has been showcased at clubs and festivals throughout the Midwest including: House of Blues (Chicago),The Pearl Room and the famed Emerson Theatre (Indianapolis.) The band has proved their LIVE strength time and again performing live with various national acts including; Slick Idiot , Project 44, Dry Kill Logic, Mushroom Head, Sonata Arctica, Hanzel Und Gretyl, Crossbreed among others.

GRIGORI 3 independently released their debut album “EXILE “ nationally thru Dark Star Records distribution which helped the band gain radio play and selective national press throughout the music scene early on including, METAL HAMMER UK, Zero Tolerance, Gothic Beauty, Dark Realms , MK and Outburn, Roczine HollyWood Music magazines. The album featured the stoic female singer on the front cover. The music went viral and the internet helped the blonde fronted band break some music barriers in an otherwise male dominated industry. Soon after their music began to get industry attention on the big screen and became included on select soundtracks.

GRIGORI 3 recently streamlined their line up and upgraded their live performance experience & Gwen changed her hair color (again ?) to support their sophomore release ‘ON YOUR SIX.’ The bands second album featured a few stand outs in the genre showing the band‘s versatility. ‘Cursed Blessing’ ( from ‘Jezebeth II’ ) reminds the listener that GRIGORI 3’s core epic feel is still there and new bass player Mike helps bring out the track’s magnetic intro. Songs like “Hachiko” exhibit a softer, more melancholy side of guitarist /writer Ray R.Wise in his heart wrenching instrumental inspired by the famous tale of an Akita and his owner. While songs like ‘FIST’ showcase the bands aggressive metal roots, lyrically Gwen’s obvious love for mixed martial arts. Finally ‘ZOMBIE LIFE’ reminds us that the band doesn’t take themselves too seriously nor their approach in life.

​The band is currently in the studio collaborating with some of Chicago’s most talented alternative musicians writing and recording album 3 due out in 2018.

Unratedmagazine: How did you find your band “Grigori 3“? And tell me about the development of the band?
Gwen Bartolini: Ray Wise and I actually founded the band together. We knew the type of music we wanted to play but our backgrounds were very different so keeping our end point in mind we began to write together. We wrote a dark acoustic / vocal song together (now titled Silently Breeding) and we decided it needed something more. So we turned to my longtime friend a talented musician named Brian Bradbury. He liked the concept of the song and then began incorporating percussion and keys into the song. Soon after we knew we were on to something original and submitted our first song to the John Lennon Song Writing contest.

How did you pick your name?
For a short while we were called OKT 31- that’s the old German spelling of October 31st -aka Halloween. But the name seemed to be too hard for other to pronoun so it didn’t stick.
So when we came up with GRIGORI 3. Well, the Grigori -aka the watchers, or those who are awake. Were an order of angels found throughout celestial history mentioned in early biblical writings that we sent down to watch over mankind with secret knowledge that eventually corrupted the hearts and minds of mankind by their own selfish needs and 3, the number of completion.

Grigori 3 (credit: Dan Locke)

Tell me about your backgrounds?
We were all part of the Chicago local music circuit. Ray played in various metal bands from Chicago/North West Indiana scene. His influences are mostly metal and classical .He lists Beethoven, Testament and Fear Factory as a few influences. Chris and Ray played in various metal bands throughout the south side, they even played together in a band early on in their musical careers. Brian played in various metal rock bands from SW Chicago suburbs, his background is mostly metal/rock and classical- he loves Bach, Elfman and Vangelis and I think it shows in his composing. Mike Marcinkowski started playing metal early on and loves thrash and lists a few early influences as Slayer, Testament, Obituary, and Deicide. And my back ground is mostly metal, rock, Goth & sacred.

How do you describe your music?
Hard hitting female fronted epic metal.

What type of music did you listen to growing up?
I listened to a cornucopia of music growing up everything from country to Broadway to Latin. Once I began focusing on vocals then Janis Joplin became a favorite of mine. So did Johnette Napolitano (Concrete Blonde), Bruce Dickinson (Iron Maiden) and Eddie Vedder (Pearl Jam).

Who influences you and why?
I have been singing since I was a little girl. I was lucky, I came from a supportive, musical family (with two singing sisters) that had their own styles. For a long time I was always the powerful, loud, singer. But did not have my own technique. As I got more interested in music I wanted to home my vocals skill and refine my style. So I trained with William Rush and I did more Broadway type music with him. Later I trained with Linda LaPearl who heavily influenced me to become a performer vs a singer. She also taught me tai chi breathing, turned around my bad habits and gave me a new appreciation for singers. As I began to open my horizons musically,   I began to get influenced by strong performers that really made impacts on their audiences- to me these were vocalists like Janis Joplin, Elvis, Grace Slick, Anne Wilson, Johnette Napilitano and later, Ville Valo, Burton C. Bell, Sandra Nasic , Liv Kristine, Christina Scabbia, Anneke Van Giersbergen, and more recently Tarja Turunen, Amy Lee, Angela Gassow, Alissa White-Gluz and Lzzy Hale.

What is the music scene in Chicago like?
In my experience it has always been very supportive. The Metal bands really seem to support each other, I think we all realized and it’s art or a way of expression it’s not a completion.

What do you feel, what direction the metal music is heading?
Here in the US – I’m not sure. There aren’t many stand out new metal bands that jump out to me lately.

Grigori 3 (credit: Dan Locke)

How did you get signed to the label?
We were doing our own independent thing getting a lot of exposure in the Midwest mostly from compilations and live shows. We were doing some things on our own, playing various conferences and summits through the Midwest. I first did a video with True Player Entertainment (with Chad Calek– now known as a premier Paranormal investigator and documentary filmmaker for American Ghost Hunter) and a video appearance in White Knuckle Trip’s music video “Divine Message for a Deaf Ear” about that time we began to get a bigger online presence. So I guess that, along with the help of the “Best of Gothic Radio compilation-vol1” thru Dark Furture Music- we started to make some noise back home in Chicago. Eventually Jeffrey Swanson and the Dark Star family found us. We seemed to all be on the same page. He was a musician as well and very passionate about the labels music and the whole industry, we knew he was someone we wanted to work with – he was driven and focused and really cared about helping us keep our own musical creativity center. At the time Dark Star was working with Drop and just a few others on the rise so we agreed to join their roster and give them our all too and we have been working with them ever since.

Let’s talk about your GRIGORI 3 licenses music for TV theme song…Mental Case Pictures in association with SGL Entertainment 2018 for AMAZON PRIME?
Yes, we licensed our song ‘Delusion’ for the upcoming show. The song will be showcased as the theme song and the band is slated to perform it in a cameo on the show in season one.

SYNOPSIS: Jezebeth is more than a horror film, it is a musical experience unlike any movie ever made. A cult horror film loaded with visuals and sound that can be enjoyed over and over again. In the attic of her ancestral home, Jezebeth, at war with God, unwittingly discovers a nineteenth century diary that details the summoning of a demon. Jezebeth succeeds in breaking a satanic code inside her hell room which creates for her two realities. Lenora Blandy (Madeline Maser), a devout catholic, endlessly tortured at the hands of Jezebeth, has come to the end of her rope. Nowhere to run, nor hide. She’s forced to confront her demons.

How did you get involved with the Jezebeth series of movies?
We joined up SGL Entertainment a few years ago when the cult classic ‘Jezebeth’ franchise was just starting out. We knew we wanted to be a part of it. Damien Dante (the director) seemed to appreciate the same beauty in the darkness we so many of us see and he could capture it on film. So we started working with him a few years back and really watched the concept grow. More recently Mental Case Pictures got involved and they fine-tuned the show’s direction. I’m happy to be a part of it, Ray and I both have reoccurring characters in the series and were really excited to perform on the show with another Dark Star band from the roster- Leaving Eden.

SYNOPSIS: It’s the year 1881 and the outlaw vampires Jezebeth Wyck and Billie Gunn, are now bitter enemies and have parted ways after a human child is gunned down in cold blood. Now after 130 years that same child is a vampire who slowly begins to show signs of being telekinetic. The child creature (Abigail) is used by the outlaw Billie Gunn as bait to lure Jezebeth back to the land where it all began for a bloody final showdown.

Any endorsement deals?
No current endorsements. We do have our favorites and but may begin looking back into that after the new album is recorded.

Grigori 3 (credit: Dan Locke)

Let’s talk about your new LP. Any word on the release date?
The Delusion single is set to release Feb 23rd 2018, the album is still in the works, but was put on hold to prep Delusion for inclusion in the Jezebeth soundtrack so hopefully 2018 but we’ll see.

Who is producing your new album?
We have been working with Mike Brezen again on this one.

From you recording from the past do you have any fan favorites you like to perform?
My favorite songs to play are The System, Silently Breeding and Defende

What type of clubs have you played in (size)?
We are fortunate we have played numerous shows and various size clubs. One of my favorites was the Chicago-House of Blues. I also really enjoyed the Chicago-Hard Rock Cafe and The Pearl Room.

What music fests would you like to play in?
Well, we are focused on finishing the album right now, but I would love to play Wacken Open Air as well as Chicago Open Air.

Have you looked into SXSW?
No, we have not.

Are you thinking about doing the US for a tour?
We do not have plans to do any national tours at this time

How would you explain your live performance?
It’s usually pretty intense and aggressive we all strive to connect with our audience and make people move.

Who have you opened up for?
We played with some great bands. Offhand I remember we opened up for Sonata Actica, Mushroom Head, DryKill Logic, The Genitorturers, Slick Idiot, Hanzel Und Gretyl & Pitbull Day Care.

If someone was listening to you for the first time, what 3 videos or songs would you tell them to look/listen to and why?
Let’s see Think Me Wicked, The System and Awakening. See, I’m all about the lyrics and deeper meanings in life, so to me those songs kind of spotlight topics that move me maybe something we might talk about if we ever met.

Grigori 3 (credit: Dan Locke)

How do you see your band in the next 5 years?
Not sure, I know I would love to keep writing and recording music. These days we still do a lot independently and we license our music for soundtracks mostly Indy films. We have also gotten behind few other upcoming projects thru the publishing OKT 31 Media Publishing Company so we might also like to expand on that. I know we would also love to try to get some of our music catalog into some new video games.

Any guilty pleasures your fans would be surprise you listen to?
Hmmm. Well like I said I love vocalists of all sorts, I love to challenge myself, so I do… I love Halestorm, so I sing my favorite” I am the Fire” usually in the car- lol as well as some Katy Perry “Fireworks.” I love languages so throw in some of my favorite’s one from Rufus Wainwright called “Agnus Dei” and another from Elderscrolls “The Drgonbourne Comes” in the Dragon language. The past year on and off I was working on one of my favorite songs from The Fifth Element “Lucia di Lammermoor” as well as the “Diva Dance.” I guess there’s another woman who sings the Fifth Element songs (including the electronic synth parts on vocals too) so I don’t feel bad it’s taken me so long to get it down. Lol its fun but it’s a challenge for me I get the Mariah Carey high notes it’s just the wording and trills etc. that need attention.

What is on your phone for music now?
I listen to a lot of I Heart radio and Spotify related artists of my favorites, but these days since we are writing I try not to listen to too many new things since I want to stay focused.

Anything in closing you would like to say?

Gwen Bartolini on the set of Jezebeth

We got pushed off coarse a while but we are back on track these days writing album #3 We will be also be shooting our video “Delusion” this June on the set of Jezebeth for the Amazon VOD TV series. It is tentatively set at The Forge in Joliet-which is a favorite club of mine. They are looking for extras to be in the scene where the bands perform. So if anyone around Chicago wants to come out and see the song performed or just wants to find out how to be a part of it they can reach out to us on Facebook.


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Grigori 3- Over the years by Dan Locke