Katherine Thomas, also known as The Great Kat, is a violin and guitar prodigy who was born in London, England, and was enrolled in the prestigious Juilliard School of performing arts. She ended up becoming concertmaster at Juilliard and taught classes as an adjunct professor. Her debut as a professional musician was at Carnegie Concert Hall.
As she describes in the interview below, The Great Kat transitioned from a classical musician to a speed metal wizard after watching a music video by Judas Priest. She also explains the inspiration and writing techniques used to record some of her classics, the 1996 album Digital Beethoven On Cyberspeed, and more.
Thinking back on your time at Juilliard, what was the most valuable lesson you learned?
The Juilliard School encouraged and trained me to be an aggressive, competitive, unrelenting, technical violin virtuoso! That’s why The Great Kat—Juilliard graduate, violin virtuoso turned guitar shredder—is god!
If you were asked to teach at Juilliard for a semester as an adjunct professor, what compositions would you focus your curriculum on?
All Beethoven masterpieces! Power, energy, brutality and the utmost in classical compositions! Beethoven composed the “5th Symphony” in 1804 and now The Great Kat shreds the “5th Symphony!”
You were concert leader at Juilliard. What were some educational moments that you look back on fondly?
Katherine Thomas—The Great Kat, violin virtuoso—became the concertmaster of the Juilliard Pre-College Orchestra and won the “Robert Hufstader Scholarship” in composition and theory at Juilliard. The most fun part was leading, ruling and dominating the Juilliard School Pre-College Orchestra as the concertmaster and forcing everyone to play the scores perfectly!
What do you remember the most about performing at Carnegie Hall?
I performed my debut as a classical violin soloist at Carnegie Recital Hall as winner of the exclusive “Artists International Competition.” I performed brilliantly playing Brahms, Sarasate and more virtuoso showpieces on the violin! The Great Kat blessed Carnegie Recital Hall with an amazing recital debut and marked the future of classical and metal music!
Can you describe the moment when you thought to move from being a classical violinist to a speed metal guitarist?
After classical touring and performing, I saw a Judas Priest music video on TV and immediately realized that classical music was dead! I wanted to update classical music using speed metal and then picked up the guitar. I began transcribing my violin solos of Paganini, Sarasate, Vivaldi, Bazzini, Beethoven, Bach and more to the guitar. That was the birth of hyper speed and shredding classical music, fast, furious and virtuosic.
If you could go back in time to receive private lessons from Beethoven for one month, what period of his career would you wish to encounter him and what would you want to learn from him?
Beethoven’s late period. The brilliance of the “9th Symphony” and the absolute futuristic genius of the Late String Quartets are the most brilliant compositions in history!
What would you say to people with a classical music background about getting involved in heavy metal?
Classical musicians need to learn the heavy metal music style and culture! Now, The Great Kat [shredding] classical music is the future of metal—vicious, classical, metal-shredding masterpieces! Wake up!
How much do you feel your live theatrics influenced other musicians?
All musicians have to measure up to The Great Kat’s blood-dripping, unrepressed, sadistic, vicious, unrelenting guitar/violin virtuosity and insane theatrics! Good Luck!
What type of promotional techniques would you advise young musicians to adhere to?
Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, the rest of the internet.
Can you tell me about what it was like recording “Ultra Dead” and what was going on with your band when you recorded it?
After going through numerous drummers, bassists, producers and engineers, The Great Kat recorded “Ultra Dead” with my typical heavy, vicious rhythms and vocals! The Great Kat also was the conductor and vicious vocal coach for the “Choir Of Death” on the background “dead” vocals! Awesome!
Can you paint the memory of how “Metal Messiah” came to fruition?
“Metal Messiah” came from The Great Kat being on a single-minded mission to update classical music with metal! The Great Kat wanted to gather all metalheads and give them power and energy directly from Beethoven, who was the first metalhead.
[“I’m your master, I’m your messiah, we shall overcome! Metal! Metal! Metal messiah!”]
Digital Beethoven On Hyperspeed was a precursor to a lot of the documentary and behind the scenes releases by many other bands. What type of influence do you think it has on today’s musicians?
The Great Kat’s Digital Beethoven On Cyberspeed CD-ROM/CD was ahead of the rest of the world using interactive digital entertainment!
[Check out Digital Beethoven On Cyberspeed CD-ROM/CD, which features a Classical/Metal Interactive disc with CyberComposers, KAT TV (TV shows in the 21st century), KAT IQ Test, Lifestyles Of The Neurotic & Psychotic Musical Geniuses, Kat Ride Through Time, Kat Slave Club Video, five Kat Shred/ Classical songs you can hear in a CD Player (starting on track two), “Goddess” Paganini’s “Caprice #9” and “Bach’s “Partita #3,” “Cyberspeed” and Wagner’s “Ride Of The Valkyries!]
What are some very important things people need to check out in your DVD release of Beethoven’s Guitar Shred?
Be prepared for a multi-layered, contrapuntal shred/classical groundbreaking DVD on The Great Kat’s Beethoven’s Guitar Shred! The Great Kat shreds entire music scores, note for note, of Beethoven, Bach, Paganini, Rimsky-Korsakov on guitar, violin, band and symphony orchestra. This is total genius entertainment for the internet generation!
[The DVD has features such as “Flight Of The Bumblebee” (Great Kat’s mind-blowing guitar/violin shredding at 300 BPM!), Beethoven’s “5th Symphony” for symphony orchestra and band, Paganini’s “Caprice #24” (virtuoso showpiece features Great Kat’s technical guitar/violin mastery), Bach’s “Brandenburg Concerto #3” (Great Kat shreds on six guitars and three violins!), and much more shred guitar virtuosity!]
There have been sightings of you at recent Comic Con events. Do you ever have interest in appearing at something like the Maryland Deathfest, Chaos In Tejas or the Northwestern Black Circle Festival?
The Great Kat would need an army of protection, bodyguards and slaves just to even consider playing at any festival!
Get ready for the new upcoming DVD featuring The Great Kat shredding Rossini’s “William Tell Overture” (The Lone Ranger theme), Mozart, Paganini and Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons.” For more information, go to greatkat.com.