Guitar One Magazine once named her one of the fastest shredders of all time and her onstage BDSM and shock-rock inspired onstage persona could give Alice Cooper a run for his money. But itâ€™s hard to imagine that The Great Kat, born Katherine Thomas, spent her childhood dreaming of bringing classical music to the world as a performer and composer.
In fact, she started learning classical piano at the age of seven, classical violin at the age of nine, and won a full scholarship to the Julliard School of Music at only 15 years of age. Since then she has moved onto classically inspired heavy metal and established herself as an undisputed guitar virtuoso.
Today, Guitar Girl Magazine delves into the story and phenomenon that is â€œThe Great Kat.â€
GGM?Â You started off with the piano and graduated from Juilliard as a classical violinist. When and how did the switch to guitar happen? What attracted you to the instrument?
Kat: I was born listening to Beethoven and grew up knowing that my mission was to bring Beethovenâ€™s powerful music to the world. After graduating from theÂ JuilliardÂ School as a solo violin virtuoso, I toured the U.S, England and Mexico, won theÂ Artistâ€™s International CompetitionÂ on violin, and performed my solo violin recital debut atÂ Carnegie Recital Hall. I also gave a solo violin performanceÂ at Gracie MansionÂ forÂ NYC Mayor Ed KochÂ as well as in Coahuila, Mexico for Governor Oscar Flores Tapia.Â I alsoÂ performed as a violin soloist onÂ the Ray Heatherton radio show, and was even calledÂ “The Little Paganin.”
After touring as a violin soloist, I realized that classical music desperately needed to be updated. By accident I happened to see a Judas Priest music video on TV one day and loved the metal guitars and operatic vocals! I immediately picked up the electric guitar and began transcribing my complicated and technical violin solos to it; thus developing my own unique genre of shred/classical music. Fast, furious, and virtuosic authentic classical scores shredded on both guitar and violin with band & orchestra!
Today,Â The Great Kat and NiccolÃ² Paganini are history’s only violin/guitar double
virtuososÂ performing both guitar and violin with inhuman feats of virtuosity!
Watch The Great Kat shredding Paganini on both guitar and violin
GGM:Â And why heavy metal? Was it something that you discovered early on in life or when making the switch to guitar?
KAT:Â Discovering the power of heavy metal is what led me to be a guitar shredder! I saw that heavy metal is the only music that can blend with the symphonic, complex virtuosity of classical music!
GGM:Â In your opinion, what makes a guitarist â€œgreat?â€
Kat:Â A guitarist is great when they can demand the listenersâ€™ attention and bring outÂ powerful emotion!
GGM:Â Â Who are your three biggest influences as a guitar player?
Kat:Â My top 3 influences as a guitar shredder are:Â Hendrix, Paganini and The Great Kat!
GGM:Â Name three artists, living or dead, that you would have loved to work with and why?
1-Beethoven!Â Because Beethoven is the only musical genius in history who demands you listen, wake up and get mad, angry and vicious â€“ with the most powerful music ever composed!
2-Mozart!Â Because his music is fun, outrageous, exciting, fast and musically genius!Â
3-Vivaldi!Â Because this baroque virtuoso genius has absolute excitement and energy!
GGM:Â Â Your onstage persona has become more and more S&M themed over the years. Where did that come from and does it reflect your offstage personality?
Kat:Â Go watch aÂ WagnerÂ opera such asÂ â€œDie Walkureâ€Â and see all the taboo subjects he wrote about!Â PaganiniÂ was calledÂ â€œThe Devilâ€™s Sonâ€!Â Mozartâ€™s â€œThe Abduction from the Seraglioâ€Â was set in a Turkish harem!
The Great Kat is the only unrepressed, outrageous guitar/violin maniac on a
single mission to wake you up with Beethoven and if it takes a dominatrix
S&M image to do it, thatâ€™s fine!Â Â
Now get on your knees and bow to your guitar dominatrix!
GGM:Â On a scale of 1-10, how important do you think a performerâ€™s persona and style is in this day and age?
Kat:Â A 10!Â The internet has demanded that you make a huge presence to compete! The Great Kat has an insane, blood-dripping, outrageous persona because that is what is needed to shove the power of hyperspeed shredclassical Beethovenian virtuosity down your throats!
â€œThe Great Kat, is one of the fastest, fiercest heavy metal guitar shredders in the universe.
This lady is hard core. She plays Beethovenâ€™s symphonies the way he always intended: incredibly fast and covered in blood.” â€“ The Late Night Show with Jimmy Fallon Online
GGM:Â What can we expect from you in the future?
Kat:Â The new Great KatÂ shred guitar/violin ringtonesÂ forÂ iPhoneÂ have just been released on theÂ iTunesÂ store. My new shred-classical DVD will also be out soon. And it features my interpretations of Gioachino Rossiniâ€™s â€œWilliam Tell Overtureâ€ and Vivaldiâ€™s â€œThe Four Seasons.â€ Both these videos are currently available on iTunes video.
GGM:Â What advice would you give to a listener whoâ€™s just picking up the guitar?
Kat:Â Learn to read music, practice with a metronome and become a technical virtuoso!
GGM:Â Name three pieces of yours that you feel truly define you as a guitarist.
1-Â Beethovenâ€™s â€œ5thÂ Symphonyâ€Â (from the Beethoven Shreds CD)
2- â€œBeethoven on Speedâ€Â (from the Beethoven on Speed CD)
3- â€œBeethoven Moshâ€Â (from the Beethoven on Speed CD)