The mind behind Legacy Of The Beast!
Llexi Leon might be an unknow name to most of Iron Maiden fans but besides a talented musician, he also was the creator “Eternal Descent” comics and the spawning of that universe to the music realm (through a virtual band) and to the video games world. Now he’s creative consultant of one of the biggest heavy metal bands ever, Iron Maiden, that are currently on the Legacy Of The Beast Tour. It’s precisely we reached out to Llexi, to know more about Eddie’s newest conquest, the world of videogames. – Fernando Ferreira
Hello Llexi and welcome to the World Of Metal. First of all let’s make the introductions for our readers. You’re the creator of Eternal Descent comic book and also work in developing and designing video games. A talented musician that work with Iron Maiden almost for four years as creative consultant. Probably there’s a lots of blank spaces but roughly this is it, right?
Hi there, yes that’s about the crux of it! I started out many years ago as a session guitarist and created a comic fantasy world where rock and metal guitarists had supernatural abilities in Eternal Descent, I’ve always been a huge fan of the mythology and imagery of the metal genre, and to me, no band encapsulates that better than Iron Maiden, it was a huge honor for me to be asked to oversee some of the creative aspects of their video game, music videos, comic books, and so on – It’s like being a kid in a candy store, so many Eddies, so little time!
Looking for your professional trajectory and to your projects it feels that in some ways it’s like a dream come true. As a comic book lover, heavy metal fan and addicted to video games, it seems like it’s the professional life for me. Is it really? Or is there that notion that when you do what you’re passionate for and add it the pressure of gaining money with it, the magic maybe gone? How is it with you?
I feel fortunate that I’m able to work on projects across a variety of mediums that I’m passionate about, I love comic books, video games, animation, and heavy metal – so on the most part, there is a synergy between my interests and what I’m working on, and I like to think it’s the passion and excitement that drives my work ethic and the perfectionist in me, because I really care about those art forms and I just want everything to be awesome. That’s usually quite hard to achieve, but always rewarding if you can pull it off! These days I’m quite busy with a wide array of projects, so the pressure is on finding time to fit it all in and make it the best it can be, but the fire still burns!
Before you start working with Maiden, you already joined these three worlds, with metal, games, and comics, with the Eternal Descent. How did the idea surfaced for the comic and how did it manage to spawn a virtual band and a video game?
Well it was early on in my career as a musician and I was interested in a genre (heavy metal) that was still very niche in UK popular music scene relative to the wide adoption in mainland Europe and the USA. There was a bit of work here and there that I really enjoyed, but often I would be doing fairly mundane or generic things within the music industry, I was looking for a way to combine my interests (I grew up reading comics and collecting from a very young age) and also reach out to musicians I admired all around the world to collaborate on something different. No one was really doing anything like it at the time, but I always felt that these musicians and their larger than life stage/performance personas where ideal candidates for comic book heroics, or villainy! Through my work I had relationships with many of the main instrument manufacturers, so some of the reps there kindly forward Eternal Descent artwork and ideas to their other endorsed artists, and I was very lucky that some fantastic bands and guitarists wanted to be involved. Anyway, the comics grew and became a bit of a cult hit, and we developed a mobile game off of the back of that and did some merchandising and things, which lead to my working with many other entities on comics/games/toys/etc.
Let’s focus on Legacy Of The Beast. How did the idea came up? Was the band that wanted to make a game?
Well Iron Maiden had a video game for PC some years back with Ed-Hunter, and it was very prescient because the game was a free CD with the greatest hits record in 1999. Now it’s very common for a game app to be part of an album launch, but back then it was really a trail blazing idea. There were many limitations with the graphics technology back then and the gameplay was fairly simplistic compared to what is possible now – so the band had been contemplating a new game for some time but wanted to ensure it could be played by fans around the world and wasn’t limited by platform or cost of hardware. The huge advances in mobile technology meant that the time was right to create a game which can really visualize the many worlds and characters from across Iron Maiden’s varied catalogue and bring a depth of gameplay mechanics which compliments the band’s lyrical lore and mythology. With ‘Legacy Of The Beast’ I wanted to create a cohesive Iron Maiden Universe where all of the worlds from the albums and the many different iterations of Eddie could co-exist simultaneously within a narrative structure that made sense and was suitably epic! It took us a couple of years just to figure out how it would all come together… but it’s very rewarding to see how far it’s come since, the fan reaction has been tremendous!
Being Maiden such a legendary band and the character Eddie so rich, I imagine that creatively it should feel like hitting like a gold mine. Did you have or have you freedom for the characters or for the story line or does the band pitch in with some sort of ideas?
It’s an amazing sandbox to play in, absolutely! I have been able to create a few new Eddie’s personally which was a huge deal for me, it’s been particularly fun looking at Iron Maiden tracks which had no single art or album art, they’d never been visualized before, and to really study those songs and conjure up new Eddies or supporting characters to incorporate them into the canon. Of course the band have their own ideas and contributions which is fantastic, we’re working with Steve right now on an updated take of a classic character from one of the Live albums.
How about the music that you can listen in the listen in the game, who made the choice? You had liberty to use any one you would like?
We worked very closely with Steve on the music selection early on in development, the game team would put together a list of requests for how and why we wanted to use certain tracks and Steve would review that and help us find previously unreleased live recordings of many of these songs which we could then edit as needed for incorporation into the soundtrack. There’s well over 50 tracks in there last I checked!
Yet about the music, we have some instrumental versions. Was there the need to make some new mixes, edits of the original songs?
Very much so! Because of the nature of game audio, it’s not just playing the song from the record in the background, we needed to go back to the masters and individual instruments, to create looping sections and themes that the game audio engine can string together in real time, so the music you hear is directly complimenting the visuals and actions on screen, the two are always linked – we didn’t want it to feel like you could just have Iron Maiden playing on the radio in the background, it had to be a bespoke tailor made experience that was still 100% authentic Iron Maiden. The majority of the music in the game is either from previously unreleased live recordings or entirely new mixes of instrumental studio masters. It was a big job to prepare the music for the game, but I think it’s safe to say it’s one of the greatest game soundtracks out there!
Do you think the game can go beyond Android and iOS and venturing into other plataforms?
I’m very interested in exploring this… we have some ideas but it’s all very early stages at the moment so we’ll have to see what’s possible for the future!
The Legacy Of The Beast is out there since 2016 and it has regular updates. But now for the Iron Maiden’s Legacy Of The Beast Tour it had a major update. In what consisted this update, what changed?
This time around we worked closely with the live stage show production team from the very beginning of the design process on the live set, so we were able to incorporate elements of the game into the tour, and sets from the tour into the game – the new update shows off the incredible Cathedral Arena, which mirrors the past, present, and future stage sets from the tour, in addition to adding the fearsome new Beast Eddie to the game, who’s come straight from his menacing appearance in the set during the song Iron Maiden. We have been incorporating many other new characters from the set list also, such as Clansman Eddie, 2 minutes 2 midnight Eddie (who we’re calling Doomsday Eddie!) as well as Icarus and many more. There are lots of subtle things too, like the backdrop image for the final song of the show is the new title screen and main menu image in the game, which was updated with new characters and content to reflect the set list.
Do you have further plans for Legacy Of The Beast after the tour ends? Do you think you can also make something similar when one eventual new Maiden album is out?
The great thing about Legacy Of The Beast is that there is so much potential to continue, we still haven’t got around to incorporating every maiden album theme, let along every song! In the fall after the tour, we will release the next game world ‘Night City’ which is inspired by the East End London setting of the debut Iron Maiden album and the followup, Killers. It’ll be the first time really we’re bringing in imagery, stories, and characters from these 2 iconic records. The game production is very much integrated with everything Maiden are doing now, so we can extend the creative experience into the gameplay whenever Iron Maiden has new music or imagery to share!
I’m going to make a comparison again. Comics book, music, video games… cinema! All things that I love and that a character like Eddie is rich enough to provide enough material to do. Do you think that that kind of project could arise? I don’t say in a movie like Metallica’s “Through The Never” – as on that I felt that the music was a kind of detached of the story itself – but in an animation movie or even horror movie where Eddie is the central character.
100%. Part of the challenge of creating Legacy Of The Beast was weaving the story together so there is a structure for this conflict between Eddie and the Beast and there are now many worlds populated with supporting characters to help Eddie along his way or challenge him on his journey. Now that we have this first narrative structure, it presents lots of opportunities for new media exploration, like the comic book, which could easily be animated for example. A live action movie would be incredible, and probably require a different story treatment again from Legacy Of The Best, but I see it as entirely achievable – it just has to be done right.
Thank you a lot for this interview Llexi! Cheers from Portugal
Cheers! Up The Irons \m/