American Katherine Thomas (6 June 1966) was a
formally dressed classical musician who studied violin at the prestigious New
York Juilliard School, which counts Philip
Glass, Nina Simone and Nigel Kennedy
among its former students.
Then, one day, she radically transformed herself into ‘The Great Kat’, dressed in fetish gear, and started to do thrash metal versions of artists like Beethoven to, in her words, ‘wake the world up’. It was shortly afterwards that Guitar One magazine described her as ‘one of the greatest shredders of all time’.
Among her substantial discography can be found Beethoven on Speed. And speed is something she obviously carries in her DNA because she fires back answers to questions faster than this interviewer has known before, referencing dozens of weblinks and articles in her response.
Guitars Exchange catches up with The Great Kat in New York where she has a recording and film studio on Long Island. She is currently in the middle of filming music videos for a new DVD, but is happy to take a break to talk about her extraordinary guitar style, what advice she would give to new guitarists and what she feels about being portrayed as a dominatrix…
GE: You have been described as a ‘classical heavy metallist’ – do you agree with that description?
Kat: Yes! The Great Kat can also be described as a “Hyperspeed guitar/violin shredder” or a “Shred classical musical revolutionary”.
I am the only guitar/violin double virtuoso bringing authentic classical music scores to the world. I have re-arranged, re-edited and re-composed Wagner, Bach, Beethoven, Paganini, Vivaldi, Liszt, and more, for guitars, violins, symphony orchestras and bands to make these materpieces even more exciting and virtuosic!
GE: You have said your aim is to ‘bring Beethoven to the masses through metal’; what first inspired that decision?
Kat: Beethoven first inspired it! Everyone must get geniusized by Beethoven!
GE: Going back to your childhood, how old were you when you started to play the violin? …And the guitar?
Kat: I started Beethoven ear-training at birth and classical violin studies at nine years old. After graduating from The Juilliard School and touring the world as a violin virtuoso I realized that classical music was dead, so I picked up the electric guitar and began revolutionizing the world and changing the face of civilization with hyperspeed music!
GE: What was your first guitar?
Kat: A Guild Solid body electric guitar with EMG Pickups. I still use this vicious, chunky, shredding guitar on all Great Kat recordings, along with several other guitars and violins.
GE: You are a graduate of the Juilliard School; did you develop your guitar skills there?
Kat: The Great Kat is a violin graduate of The Juilliard School. It was only after graduating and performing as a classical violin soloist, that I discovered guitar and heavy metal from watching a Judas Priest Music Video. Then, I simply transferred my technical knowledge from the violin to the guitar and became the only guitar/violin virtuoso since Paganini… and hyperspeed guitar was born!
GE: What did you most enjoy about your training at Juilliard?
Kat: I enjoyed performing my solo violin recitals, where I performed virtuoso works that I learned and perfected during the year.
GE: What do you feel about Google having rather demure black and white photos of you with a violin aside photos of you as a dominatrix?
Kat: Brilliant! Enjoy the demure violin/dominatrix guitar insanity!
GE: What is your most treasured guitar today?
Kat: My Burns Scorpion is my most treasured guitar; The Great Kat is the official endorser of the Burns Scorpion guitar.
GE: What gear and amp can’t you live without?
Kat: Regarding guitars, the BURNS Scorpion guitar (EMG pickups), Ibanez S1520 Prestige, Guild solid body with EMG pickups and a Kahler tremolo, Jackson V with EMG pickups and a Floyd Rose tremolo, and Gibson Flying V, plus a bunch more guitars.
My amp is a Marshall 100-Watt JCM 800 especially modified for The Great Kat’s shred specifications.
My FX include Arion MM-1 Metal Master Pedal, DigiTech 2120, Eventide Delay, Lexicon Concert Hall Reverb and various EQs and compressions.
GE: Who have been your biggest guitar influences?
Kat: Hendrix and Rhoads.
GE: Who are the shredders you most admire in the world today?
Kat: The Great Kat! Wake up!
GE: What advice would you give to a guitarist just starting out?
Kat: If you can learn to read music and practice with a metronome, that would help you become a more precise shredder. Practice slow at first and work up the tempo, always keeping note of accuracy and precision. Start with watching a little guitar tablature from The Great Kat’s Paganini’s Caprice #24 at https://youtu.be/6uDPPz12sFw. Remember, I started slowly and worked my way up to that tempo!
GE: What are your plans for this year?
Kat: Everyone can see the new teaser for Bazzini’s The Round Of The Goblins at https://youtu.be/-y-oB2TMzu4
The Great Kat is recording the shred classical masterpiece Czardas for guitar, violin, piano and band, which will be available on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify and more soon. The new Great Kat Music Video for Czardas will be out, and a new Great Kat DVD is coming!
The interview closes with The Great Kat issuing a number of commands and orders, all of which I won’t detail here, but I think I understand the general drift.
“On your knees and start worshipping!” she says. “Shred on!!!”
The Great Kat official website: http://www.greatkat.com/