Dragon’s Lair

Back with a new Project: Archives post! This one brings a little heat to a collection that was otherwise predominantly atmospheric and pensive. Unearthed Arcana’s “Dragon’s Lair” was another staple of my live sets and has the distinction of being re-recorded and remixed on three separate occasions over the course of three years (this original version, a version I recorded around the time of Mystic Visions that features the Roland drum machine I was using for that album, and a completely rebuilt version for a compliation of new material and remixes I did in 1989).

Year Composed: 1987

About the Song

“Dragon’s Lair” appears very late in the lineup for Unearthed Arcana – it’s track number 11 out of 14, but that tally includes an intro track and an outro that essentially just reprises the opening with minor variations. By this point in the album, I felt that something more intense and driving was desperately needed, especially coming on the heels of the exceedingly sparse and dreamy duo of “Caverns” and “Underground Lake.” In addition, I hadn’t yet paid tribute to one of the most iconic creatures in fantasy, and since I had no idea of what, if anything, I would be writing and recording following this collection, I decided it was high time to accomplish both goals in one fell swoop. A lot of this song really almost wrote itself, simply because of the role it was intended to serve. I remember having to structure out the verse melodies a bit, but there were more than a few things that I took as a given going in: tempo-wise, it had to cook; the bass line had to carry a lot of the energy; it would need some kind of wild effects processing, since my keyboard’s sounds just didn’t have the kind of grittiness or punch to carry a song of this nature, and; I wanted there to be periodic hits or stabs on the downbeats during the verses to grab the listeners’ attention, but I didn’t have the ability to multi-track yet, so I’d have to cover those along with the melody. As a little twist during the third chorus section, I varied up the length of each of the chord changes, cutting some shorter and holding some out longer. Not only was this intended to make an otherwise-predictable and melodically slower section a little more interesting, it was also my way of conveying some of the wily, unexpected nature of the song’s namesake beast.

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