The Great Kat Interview "GREAT KAT SCRATCHES A CLASSICAL ITCH" in The News Tribune (Tacoma, WA)
By Patrick Enright, The News Tribune
Great Kat scratches a classical itch

PATRICK ENRIGHT; For The News Tribune
Metal-minded ‘Maniac’ It arrived inauspiciously, quietly, in a nondescript padded envelope. Ripping open the envelope unleashed the demons. Out fell a new DVD titled “Extreme Guitar Shred” by someone called the Great Kat, who appeared on the front and back covers of the case as a black-bustier-clad, electric-guitar-wielding, yowling banshee.

Speculation was rampant: Who was this furious fiend? Why was she assaulting eardrums with super-fast versions of classical pieces by Bazzini and Wagner? And would watching the DVD cause permanent damage?

The subsequent phone interview with the Great Kat that provided the answers was a high-volume monologue as frightening as it was edifying; it was also littered with profanity, which has been altered here for sensitive eyes.

Spin magazine has called the Great Kat “the speediest, scariest female shredder of all time.” She humbly called herself “a maniac, and a god, and a messiah all rolled into one.”

The Great Kat, nťe Katherine Thomas, is a self-proclaimed guitar and violin virtuoso who studied violin at Juilliard for six years before she “decided that classical music was dead and decided to update it.”

“Classical music was destroyed after Beethoven,” Kat said. “Beethoven was the last brilliant composer because he was a virtuoso. … I’m the last of a line of virtuosos.”

Kat set about the task of “single-handedly resurrecting” classical music by taking entire scores of classical violin pieces and “plopping them in with a … drumbeat and bass line in the back, and that’s the new music of the 21st century.”

Another way to put it is that she combines classical music and speed metal, resulting in a genre the Great Kat has dubbed “shred classical.” And she’s been doing this for nigh on 20 years.

Not everyone has taken her entry into the musical canon gracefully, however, no matter how often Kat proclaims, “The Great Kat is God! The Great Kat is kicking (butt)!”

“I get slagged by women, I get abused by guys, I get death threats,” she railed. Men try to keep women down, she said, because of their genitalia: “I don’t give a … about your (penis)! Your (penis) is meaningless!”

Why, one might ask, would an outspoken woman such as Kat decide to cast her lot with heavy metal, one of music’s more sexist subcultures? Especially if she’s dead-set on tight, revealing leather clothing? She answered that question with one of her own.

“What’s the closest form to classical music?” she said. “Metal is the only form of music that actually uses fast riffs, virtuoso motifs.”

No matter what else might be said about the Great Kat, her chops are impressive – the speed with which she spits out scales on both electric guitar and violin is astounding, especially when accompanied, as it is on the DVD’s six videos, by her snarling, wild-eyed metal posturing and head-banging.

Yet she has mixed feelings.

“Metal … is moron mass music. It’s moron music because it doesn’t require any skill,” she said. “When you go into metal or pop music or any of the music for the (jerks), it makes money, because there are more (jerks) out there.”

Like many New Yorkers, the Great Kat was profoundly affected by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, which inspired the fury of her pro-war album “Wagner’s War” (videos for some of that CD’s songs appear on the “Extreme Guitar Shred” DVD). The album offers a fiery rendition of the composer’s “Ride of the Valkyries” as a battle cry to spur on American soldiers.

“The reason 9/11 happened,” Kat insisted, “was because the terrorist … decided that the United States was off their guard. Well, guess what? That’s not gonna happen again.”

The solution is to “take over the … world, spread democracy.” Those nations that might oppose us will have to “get … out of the way.”

Because of safety concerns – “These guys hate my … guts” – Kat will be spreading her pro-democracy message through her Web site, www.greatkat.com, rather than traveling the world to rock out. So we won’t be seeing her in the Northwest any time soon.

“When the Great Kat deems little cities … worthy of my genius,” she’ll tour, Kat said. “When the security is done properly and people are screaming and yelling for the Great Kat, then we’ll go.”

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