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 it’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 “The Great Kat.”
GGM: 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 Beethoven’s powerful music to the world. After graduating from the Juilliard School as a solo violin virtuoso, I toured the U.S, England and Mexico, won the Artist’s International Competition on violin, and performed my solo violin recital debut at Carnegie Recital Hall. I also gave a solo violin performance at Gracie Mansion for NYC Mayor Ed Koch as well as in Coahuila, Mexico for Governor Oscar Flores Tapia. I also performed as a violin soloist on the Ray Heatherton radio show, and was even called “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, The Great Kat and Niccolo Paganini are history’s only
violin/guitar double virtuosos performing both
guitar and violin with inhuman feats of virtuosity!
Watch The Great Kat shredding Paganini on both
guitar and violin at http://youtu.be/ampk7xrp6la
GGM: And why heavy metal? Was it something that you discovered early on in life or when making the switch to guitar?
KAT: 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: In your opinion, what makes a guitarist â€œgreat?â€
Kat: A guitarist is great when they can demand the listener’s attention and bring out powerful emotion!
GGM: Who are your three biggest influences as a guitar player?
Kat: My top 3 influences as a guitar shredder are: Hendrix, Paganini and The Great Kat!
GGM: Name three artists, living or dead, that you would have loved to work with and why?
1-Beethoven! Because Beethoven is the only musical genius in history who demands you listen, wake up and get mad, angry and vicious with the most powerful music ever composed!
2-Mozart! Because his music is fun, outrageous, exciting, fast and musically genius!
3-Vivaldi! Because his baroque virtuoso genius has absolute excitement and energy!
GGM: 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: On a scale of 1-10, how important do you think a performer’s persona and style is in this day and age?
Kat: A 10! 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!
“The Great Kat” is one of the fastest, fiercest
heavy metal guitar shredders in the universe.
This lady is hard core. She plays Beethoven’s symphonies the way
he always intended: incredibly fast and covered in blood.”
– The Late Night Show with Jimmy Fallon Online
GGM: What can we expect from you in the future?
Kat: The new Great Kat shred guitar/violin ringtones for iPhone have just been released on the iTunes store. My new shred-classical DVD will also be out soon. And it features my interpretations of Gioachino Rossini’s William Tell Overture and Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons. Both these videos are currently available on iTunes video.
GGM: What advice would you give to a listener who’s just picking up the guitar?
Kat: Learn to read music, practice with a metronome, and become a technical virtuoso!
GGM: Name three pieces of yours that you feel truly define you as a guitarist.
1- Beethoven’s 5th Symphony (from the Beethoven Shreds CD)
2- Beethoven on Speed (from the Beethoven on Speed CD)
3- Beethoven Mosh (from the Beethoven on Speed CD)
~ Phyllis Pollack