Leon Chang, better known as @leyawn on Twitter, has been surprising us all for a while with his clever jokes, neat little games, art, and music. It's no secret that this guys is funny, unpredictable, talented, and also definitely a bird.
So when I heard he was releasing what looked to be a video game soundtrack, I was like, oh HELL yeah. Appropriately titled 'Bird World,' Leon's new album is all about birds. It even has a full video-game style story, character sheets, a manual, and more. I had a chance to chat with him face-to-face and premiere "Noodle Cove," which you can watch and listen to below! To all of our surprise, he is in fact, not a bird… I don't think.
Leon and I exchanged a bunch of e-mails about 'Bird World,' the fake game that it's a soundtrack to (which I wish was real), and what it's like having a day job, creating, and being a staple of weird twitter all at the same time. 'Bird World' releases tomorrow digitally, physically, and with a bunch of awesome goodies to go along with it, but for now you can listen the premiere on Waypoint!
Who's the bird and what's the significance of this character?
The bird is me, Leon! Well, I'm one of many birds of Bird World. I've always used the Huffin Puffin enemy from Yoshi's Island as my online avatar, so when coming up with the album and game concept, I wanted to be the main character. I'm fat, I love to eat, and I love to sleep.
What inspired you to make an album that doubles as a video game OST?
A lot of my music already is heavily inspired by video game OSTs, and I've always wanted to score a video game, so I thought this would be the next best thing. For example, one of my older tracks, "Highway Zone," was based off of Jet Set Radio and Wipeout songs, and "Hearthome City" is a cover of a Pokémon song. I also like the idea of basing a song around a location, like a forest or an island.
What are some of your favorite locations in video games? Do any of the locations in Bird World resemble those?
Costa Del Sol from Final Fantasy VII and Koopa Troopa Beach from Mario Kart 64. Both these areas have a real classic tropical feel, inspired both the "Lychee Beach" and "Noodle Cove" locations in Bird World. They use bossa nova rhythms/chords in a real upbeat way.
Lake Hylia from Twilight Princess is one of my favorite locations in any game. First, it's so big. Like, compared to the one in Ocarina of Time, it's twice as big, and in a huge canyon. It's really impressive. You can launch out of a cannon from the bottom, or float down from a house on the very top. I haven't played Breath of the Wild yet, but I'm hoping there's something just as cool in it too. There's not really a similar location in Bird World, except maybe Winter Melon Valley, in that they're both places where you can chill out and let the sounds of nature around you lull you to sleep.
What is the Bird World story?
The Roc Egg, a massive rock formation on the peak of Mantou Mountain, had laid dormant for as long as the birds can remember. It's not even supposed to be an egg—it's just a rock. One night, a terrible storm gathers around the mountain. Lightning strikes the Roc Egg, and it splits in half with a loud bang. Or at least, that's what it seems like from afar. No bird has gotten close enough to investigate, because after it splits open, strange monsters begin appearing on the mountain, making their way across the land. A week later, a strange bird washes ashore by Lychee Beach, with no memory of her past, in front of a small house where the bird Leon lives with his mother. Leon and the strange bird embark on a quest to uncover her memories and figure out just what happened on Mantou Mountain…
Do you have plans to ever turn Bird World into a real game?
Nah, I haven't pretended like it's a real game, though it would be really cool to turn it into a real game, but I don't really have the resources or knowledge to do that.
I do have some friends I'd like to work with to make simple games, I have a short point and click adventure game I'd like to create about getting out of bed in the morning, which wouldn't be as complicated as an RPG. If I end up having the time or money I'd definitely try turning Bird World into a real game though. It would be like Breath of Fire II meets Yume Nikki. With birds.
Someone needs to make this happen. Speaking of wild combinations, what are some things you do to help manage making music, games, working AND being a driving force of "weird twitter"?
I'm so tired! I need sleep! I've been getting like, four to five hours of sleep a night for the last month, haha. I've been posting online my entire life, but I only really started making music over the last year. I also work a full time job. I post less now, as I'm trying to focus on the music thing. I played my first show in January with Paper Crane (shout out to Madnap and the rest of the Paper Crane Collective) and it was a blast, I definitely want to try more of that. It was actually really funny because we got tacos before the show and they were asking me like, how I got so many followers from making music, and I had to explain it was the other way around.
For my last question, what are some music or video game goals you want to accomplish in the next few years?
I would absolutely love to score an actual video game. Even better, I would love to create an actual video game. I'd like to play more live shows. The stuff I play live is pretty different from what I make, so it's a nice change of pace. It'd be super cool to be able to record with a full orchestra too. All the stuff on the album is from manipulating samples and digital instruments, but I really want to write orchestral pieces. There's also a lot of leftovers from the album, stuff that really didn't fit thematically (like more lo-fi hip hop sounding stuff) that I want to piece together into something else.
A huge huge thank you to everyone in the music community and my fans for being so supportive. I know I can be an ironic shithead online but my music and art is a thing I sincerely care about, and it means a lot that so many people have enjoyed and welcomed it into their lives. I hope you love the journey to Bird World!