The Rock Opera
A Rock n' Roll Romance of Innocence and Lust.
Jill Janus: Co-Composer and Lyricist-Dramatist
Angus Clark: Co-Composer and Lyricist-Dramatist
“Welcome to the Divine Dive! We’ll take away all of your sorrow and give it back to you tomorrow. Introducing the star of our show and purveyor of purity, Victory! She’s the teenage phenomenon captivating your souls, the superstar savior, and the assassin of sin!”
And so it begins. The story of Victory: The Rock Opera weaves a tale of innocence and lust. Victory’s an internet sensation, a social media superstar whose God-like reach has given hope to the desolate and deranged. This is a sordid saga best viewed through rose-colored glasses.
But take a peek behind the smoke and mirrors. There you’ll find the lock that bears the seal of Zander. He is Victory’s adoptive father, the builder of the pedestal from which she reigns. He’s a crude man and the shady owner of the Divine Dive cabaret, where Victory is happily and unknowingly kept captive. That is until a wayward guitarist named Cameo enters the scene. But when Victory and her young renegade fall in love, they threaten Zander’s ultimate plan: to auction Victory’s virtue to the highest bidder when she turns 18. Enter a slew of seedy characters, Victory’s strung-out mother, Veronica, and Tino the benevolent, sleazy snitch.
The battle between innocence and lust has started. Victory discovers desire beyond her golden cage and the shame it brings. Will she break free or remain the same? All will be revealed in the story of Victory.
INTERVIEW WITH JILL & ANGUS
How did the two of you meet up and become the powerful songwriting force behind Victory: The Rock Opera?
JJ: Angus and I joined forces in New York City in 2006. It’s like the Universe gave me a High-Five, we are two weirdo music nerds united in rock opera fantasy!
AC: In ’06 I was working on a couple of band projects, one was very theatrical and Mike Benigno was the drummer. We immediately hit it off and started working on a couple of songs just as songwriting and production partners. I had a studio in a rehearsal space in Manhattan where we would record everything. After Mike met Jill they came in and we worked on a couple of tracks – one of those I still want to release! It’s called “Skin Tight Fight”, great song. Jill and I really hit it off in that we can share ideas and are able to give and take criticism. So when she came in, the Victory idea was just a great progression of the writing partnership.
How did you conceive such interesting, diverse characters for the rock opera?
JJ: Having grown up in musical theatre, I often draw inspiration from characters and actors in the musicals or operas I have performed. It’s part formula, part imagination. For example, I created the role of Zander as a combo of Fagin from Oliver! the musical and Rob Halford of Judas Priest. I attended college for musical theatre and music theory, and have a vast knowledge of the theatrical world. I came to Angus with the skeleton of the rock opera, a few songs and the leading characters. He helped define those roles and then more roles were created to support the leads, to define the storyline.
AC: That’s all Jill of course, she’s too kind to give me any credit. I was kind of playing catch-up on the plot development side. I read four books on writing musical theater plays over the course of a month just to have some reference point for what the fundamentals are. It’s fascinating how various production concerns drive the need for secondary characters and so forth. At that time “Rock of Ages” wasn’t in New York at all. I think I had done (Overkill Bassist) DD Verni’s “Bronx Casket Company”, which was my first experience with heavy music in theater, so I was dipping my toe in the water so to speak.
The storyline tackles issues facing young adults, particularly the title character Victory. The taboo attached to sex is archaic in the United States for many women, causing lifelong psychological issues. Victory’s character scope reminds me of young Disney or Nickelodeon entertainers who have been conditioned to praise virtue, abstinence and Christianity, until there’s some explosive, life-altering event that sends them spiraling into self-defeat. What inspired you to tackle the sexual struggle of young women, who are often shamed when the desire to be sexually active naturally occurs?
JJ: I did feel shame being attracted to boys as a teenager. To avoid the inevitable, I shielded myself with music. I was a maniac; doing community theatre, taking ballet classes and vocal lessons. Plus singing in my Misfits cover band, which was rad. I’m a late bloomer, a Virgo and a snob – that kept me away from boys, from prom, and kept me on a skateboard for years. My hope with the role of Victory is to abolish some of that female sexual stigma, showing the humanity instead of humility, and building self-confidence instead of self-hate.
AC: Jill’s vision of the character has always been extremely clear, and that’s why the story works. It gives the story a real heart – it’s not written just to tackle those issues, but it does. I think that shame should never be anyone’s motivating force, so the more we can create art that helps people move beyond shame the better. There are a lot of power dynamics created and money being made off of that shame, and that’s a big part of the story as well.
You’re both born and raised in New York State; Angus is native to New York City, and Jill moved from Upstate to Manhattan at 18 to attend a conservatory. How do you feel living and working in NYC has influenced your approach to writing the rock opera?
JJ: NYC is the heartbeat of theatre. New Yorkers are slick and possess a quick wit. No one can top our sense of humor to combat struggle. I credit Jewish culture for much of my shtick, even though I’m not a Jew – I’m a shiksa! Theatre is such a huge part of everyday life in New York, and that definitely translates into my approach as a composer, lyricist and script writer. Also, working in nightlife for 15 years, and experiencing that decadence gave me a penchant for darkness. And of course the gays. They’ve probably influenced my snarky un-PC sensibility the most.
AC: My mom was an opera singer, so I attended quite a few while growing up. We almost never went to Broadway shows. For me New York is home, and I think if anyone is lucky enough to intersect with two or three of the various “scenes” – classical venues, Broadway, grungy rock clubs, dance clubs, etc. – you’ve got most of the planet beat in terms of exposure.
Jill, you and Angus began writing Victory: The Rock Opera several years ago, but you had to stall the project. What were the reasons for the delay?
JJ: Angus and I began our musical collaboration in 2006. However, the project was halted when Huntress was formed in Los Angeles. We signed to the label Napalm Records in 2011 and began touring virtually non-stop. In between tours, the band and I were writing albums. It just wasn’t possible to take on any more projects. Now I’m making time to work on my other musical endeavors, while taking a break from touring.
Angus, you’ve been guitarist for the world renowned Trans-Siberian Orchestra (TSO) for 17 years! How do you feel your experience from TSO has helped to shape the rock opera?
AC: As theatrical as the TSO is, it is a rock band in concert with theatrical elements, not a play. Totally different animal. That being said, it is a huge production, so I’ve learned a lot during my time with the TSO, and it’s still a blast to play those songs for such amazing fans.
Let’s talk about your bands. Jill founded and fronts the heavy metal pentad Huntress, who’ve released three studio albums on Napalm Records and played 500 live shows worldwide. Angus shreds guitar for the hard rock band DareDevil Squadron, having recently completed their debut album. Give the readers insight about your bands.
JJ: Huntress is a melodic metal band with a modern sonic sensibility. We stay true to the roots of heavy metal: Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, early era Scorpions. Huntress crafts songs around the vocals. I’m classically trained and have the ability to use four octaves as a rock singer, then seamlessly attack with controlled screaming. It’s fun to party as a singer. The best way to understand Huntress is by experiencing our live show. We’re often compared to Alice Cooper or King Diamond and Mercyful Fate. Our music videos will be our legacy, they truly represent our vision.
AC: The Squadron has a whole album in the can and we’re releasing video singles here and there to build interest. The whole band is involved in so many projects during the year that it’s hard for us get together as much as we’d like to.
Will you both take on the roles of Victory and Zander, having recorded the roles respectively for the studio demos?
JJ: Victory is a 17 year old on the verge of 18. I'm too old, honey! I recorded the demos to define what is required of the role. I think Angus would be an amazing musical director for the show, and while I'd like to sit back and help with casting, maybe I'd consider playing the role of Victory's mother Veronica.
AC: That would be fun, but it’d take some prodding to get me out there singing and dancing!
One final question: What is your ultimate vision for Victory: The Rock Opera?
JJ: I’m not here to change the world, I’m here to take my act to Broadway! Ideally, Angus and I would like to first showcase Victory: The Rock Opera in Manhattan, find investors who share our vision and take it from there. There’s so much potential and much more that can come of it. But what really matters is enjoying every moment of the journey as Angus and I further develop and grow the show. I genuinely want this process to be fun, the rest will fall into place.
AC: Having worked on “Rock of Ages” and “School of Rock” I have a little experience around the amazing people that make Broadway what it is. I have huge respect for that community and the vetting process that these shows go through, so I don’t take it lightly that we’re outsiders to large degree. But that won’t stop us, we’ll get where we want to go.
Jill Janus has had a diverse career in music that includes not only a wealth of performances as an operatic coloratura soprano and heavy metal vocalist, but also as an international disc jockey. She was raised on a farm in the Catskills Mountains and, at the age of 17, won a scholarship to attend the Musical and Dramatic Academy in Manhattan. Upon graduation Jill moved to Monaco to perform in a musical revue at the prestigious Monte Carlo Sporting Club for one year.
Upon her return to the US, she took New York nightlife by storm, producing her own award-winning cabarets and parties. She began DJ-ing in her early 20s and was catapulted into fame as one of the top female DJs in the world. On Monday nights Jill produced a show at Windows on the World at the World Trade Center, floor 107. Her event ran four years, and on September 10, 2001 she threw the last party at the WTC. She left the building at 1:00am on September 11, 2001. She is featured in the National Geographic documentary The Final Hours.
Jill met Angus Clark in 2006, and the songwriting duo began collaborating on Victory: The Rock Opera. However, the project was halted when Huntress was formed in Los Angeles, then subsequently signed to the label Napalm Records in 2011. Her heavy metal pentad was launched into a relentless global touring schedule and released three albums within four years. The band is now preparing to head into the studio to record their fourth album.
In addition to Victory: The Rock Opera, Jill is collaborating on a new, secretive musical endeavor with Monte Pittman (ex-Prong guitarist & current guitarist for Madonna) and producer/engineer Jay Ruston (Stone Sour, Anthrax). Jill portrayed the Space Queen in Brendon Small's Galaktikon live-action metal short, Nightmare, starring alongside actor David Dastmalchian (Ant-Man). She’s lent her voice to several projects including the upcoming Brian Posehn metal/comedy album and the live-action film Realm of the Damned as vampire commander Athena. Jill’s vocal ability is unparalleled in the metal world, and she’s received accolades as one of the most unique vocalists in the world and one who can span genres effortlessly.
Heshette, Jill’s occult jewelry collection was founded in 2011 while touring with Huntress. She’s sold over a thousand occult-themed creations worldwide, each one hand-crafted by Jill alone. Visit her shop at etsy.com/shop/heshette
Angus Clark has pursued a life dedicated to music, both as a songwriter/producer and a guitarist for the word- renowned Trans-Siberian Orchestra (TSO). He’s been part of the TSO family for 17 years and 17 tours, 4 albums, plus an appearance at Wacken Open Air. In between touring, he moonlights on Broadway, having played guitar for the award-winning musicals Rock of Ages (Broadway production), School of Rock (Broadway production), and Bronx Casket Company (off Broadway).
TSO founder Paul O’Neill had been inspired to create music like the Andrew Lloyd Weber rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar. In Angus he found a kindred spirit, one who shared the love of the rock opera format and the true potential of “rocked-up” classical music.
After completing his Bachelor’s Degree in music at University of Southern California’s prestigious studio guitar program, Angus returned to New York and joined Noise/BMG artist Naked Sun for one album before being picked up by Grammy-winning New Age legend Kitaro for four albums and world tours. During this time Angus completed his Master’s Degree in Music Composition at NYU’s Steinhart School while touring with Atlantic recording artist Drill (featuring KMFDM’s Lucia and Black Label Society’s John “JD” DeServio).
Upon finishing his last tour cycle with Kitaro, Angus took a deep dive into pop songwriting and production, setting up his first studio and attending workshops for songwriters and artists.
He has recorded for the bands Metal Church and for Overkill’s DD Verni and has performed live with: Jon Anderson (Yes), Paul Rodgers (Bad Co., Queen), Joe Walsh (The Eagles), Geoff Tate (Queensryche), and Robin Zander (Cheap Trick). Angus has written and produced music for online advertising campaigns and video games and numerous corporate clients through his company SongDivision, which specializes in music for corporate events. Angus is lead guitarist for hard rock band Daredevil Squadron, which he formed in 2009. Daredevil Squadron recently completed their first studio album.
STUDIO CAST RECORDING
Jill Janus: Role of Victory
"Made For You" (Solo)
"One Look" (Duet with Cameo)
"Let It Begin" (with Chorus)
"Young As You Are" (with Chorus)
Angus Clark: Role of Zander, Guitars
"I Know A Thing Or Two" (Solo)
Mark Rinzel: Role of Cameo
"Nothing I'd Rather Do" (Solo)
Mike Benigno: Drums, Backing Vocals
Pemberton Roach: Bass, Backing Vocals
William Malchow: Keyboards