The Usual Suspects.
Women guitarists are too often overshadowed by their male counterparts. This is a fact that we all know and why we love books like She’s a Rebel: The History of Women in Rock & Roll and lists like Venus Zine’s Best Female Guitarists of All Time.
But could these books and lists be leaving out some formidable musicians who could, very likely, kick Joan Jett’s rock-tastic abilities out of the water? Could writers/journalists interested in giving women musicians exposure that they haven’t had in the male dominated world of rock-and-roll be ignoring some musicians?
The answer: Hell Yes.
The names on Venus Zine are not unfamiliar. The musicians listed span from electric gospel (Sister Rosetta Tharpe), to country (Rosie Flores), to alternative rock (PJ Harvey) and finally to rock (Joan Jett).
If we were to take this short list seriously, we’d be thinking women musicians don’t go beyond mainstream rock. How Lita Ford didn’t make this list is beyond me.
But this post is about women who aren’t the usual suspects.
And these unusual suspects do turn up in the genres so buried in male domination that many writers forget women exist.
Though the Great Kat has been around for quite a while–her album Beethoven on Speed came out in 1990–you won’t find her in She’s a Rebel or The Rolling Stone Book of Women in Rock: Trouble Girls. And you sure won’t find her on a Venus Zine best of female guitarists, despite her long musical background. When it comes right down to it, she can shred like the best of ‘em. One need only listen to “Flight of the Bumblebees” to understand just what she can do technically.
And by the way, people give Trans-Siberian a lot of credit for the heavy metal renditions of classical tunes.
Well, The Great Kat had several years on them. Before they were even a group, she was composing metal versions of classical tunes from artists like Beethoven, Back, Pagannini, and others. Where TSO enjoys the complicated orchestral sound, The Great Kat kept it simple: electric guitar & violin.
The Great Kat, born Katherine Thomas, earned a scholarship at Juilliard as a violin student at the age of 15. From there she began to perform as a classical violinist until the realization hit her that classical music was dead.
So began the career of The Great Kat. She’s been named one of the “Top 10 Fastest Shredders of All Time” by Guitar One magazine.
And yet, though she is, as she herself claims, “fast, furious, and virtuosic” (think six-note-per-second metal), you won’t see her on any lists compiled by Venus Zine or in the index of any of the more popular woman musician friendly books.
But by her very existence she proves that women can make a name for themselves in metal. So if you have a top ten list of favorite guitarists or want to make one, add her to yours and pass the word on.
Metal isn’t just for boys anymore.