The Great Kat, Who Dumped Mozart for Metal Mania

updated 04/04/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/04/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

In her Carnegie Recital Hall debut, violinist Katherine Thomas played Kreisler's Liebesfreud "too furiously. Parts of Sarasate's Carmen Fantasy were overstated, but there was something to appreciate in her strong technique, strong ideas and strong will."

New York Times, 1982

Good call, Times. Katherine Thomas' exuberance was always a problem. Her solution, however, was not restraint but revolt: goodbye Katherine Thomas, Juilliard-trained classical violinist, hello the Great Kat, self-proclaimed she-goddess of hyperspeed heavy-metal guitar. If the Times reviewer didn't like her Liebesfreud, he should definitely steer clear of "Speed Death," "Metal Massacre," "Satan Goes to Church," "Kill the Muthers" and other highlights from her Roadracer Records debut album, a loud and long-playing crescendo titled Worship Me or Die!

"I got sick of playing Mozart concertos over and over," says Kat, 26, who grew up in Huntington, Long Island, and won a scholarship to Juilliard when she was 15. After graduation in 1982, she played recitals in the U.S and England and was named a "woman to watch" by New Woman magazine in 1982 and 1983. All went smoothly until—in one of those moments parents have nightmares about—Kat flicked on her MTV. "I took a break and—what the hell is that?" she says. "This guy in Judas Priest, decked out in leather, singing high notes like Wagnerian opera. I thought, 'Wow!' How exciting compared to a boring concert at Alice Tully Hall." Inspired, Kat dropped her violin, picked up a guitar and devoted herself to discord, dat chord and distortion.

"When Beethoven was around, waltzes were big, so he took off from waltzes," says Kat, who insists she is simply following that tradition. "If he were alive today, Beethoven would be a metal head."

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