The Dragula Singularity: How One Song Conquered Late '90s Gaming

A simple tune about a Sunday drive with the Devil had a remarkable presence in PlayStation-era gaming, leaving us with one lingering question: Why?

Article by Bob Mackey, .

Ask the question "What if Fangoria was a band," and the answer will undoubtedly be "White Zombie," the outfit that rocked faces with their Spirit Halloween Superstore dynamism from 1985 to 1998.

Before rap music emerged as the newest threat to taint a generation of young people, White Zombie freaked out squares with playful takes on Satanism and a genuine love of horror in all its forms. With song titles like "Shack of Hate," "Scum Kill," "Murderworld," and "Acid Flesh," the group engineered their music to piss off suburban parents, all while giving teenage fans ideas for nightmarish doodles to scrawl into notebook margins.

The band found its share of fame throughout their short existence—possibly due to the fact they produced the few music videos Beavis and Butt-head actually liked—but the Zombie name didn't achieve maximum relevance until frontman Rob went solo and released 1998's Hellbilly Deluxe: 13 Tales Of Cadaverous Cavorting Inside The Spookshow International. And that's when one particular single and the medium of video games would reach maximum synergy.

The Culprit

Hellbilly Deluxe's "Dragula"—named after a drag racer featured in a Munsters episode—rocketed to number 6 on Billboard's rock charts, marking Rob Zombie's closest brush with mainstream culture before taking his love of horror to the silver screen with movies like House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil's Rejects. Dragula hit when angry white boy rock dominated the airwaves, but unlike the Korns and Limp Bizkits of the world, you could always feel Rob Zombie winking at you from beneath his pounds of monster makeup. At least Rolling Stone identified the tongue-in-cheek nature of Zombie's music by commenting in their (positive) review of Hellbilly: "If some kids somewhere take all this pulp Satanism seriously, well, they'll surely soon be old enough to know better."

Given that the state of late-'90s gaming was loud, aggressive, and ridiculous, "Dragula" and video games were a match made in heaven. And its presence in The Matrix alone gave the song a ton of clout before the Wachowskis destroyed that series' momentum with two lousy sequels. But did Zombie's wailing about "conquering the worm" fit just as well with the many games it found itself injected into?

Exhibit A: Sled Storm [PlayStation, 1999]

The long-forgotten Sled Storm—which had a second go on the PS2 until EA forever abandoned the lucrative world of competitive snowmobiling—features the "Hot Rod Herman" remix of "Dragula," which cuts down on the agressiveness of the original thanks to drum loops borrowed right from The Crystal Method. Yet the lyrics still starkly contrast with Sled Storm's snow-kissed wilderness, and, unlike the music video, at no point can you ride with The Devil himself. Unless the final level offers a race up the frozen body of Satan in the Ninth Circle of Hell—a la his depiction in Dante's Inferno—Sled Storm is a little too clean-cut for the likes of "Dragula."

Exhibit B: Gran Turismo 2 [PlayStation, 1999]

The Japanese Gran Turismo soundtracks were always light-hearted and cheesy, though this original music got the boot when the games made their journey to America. And, thanks to Sony's dominance at the time, GT2 had some pretty huge acts attached to it, like Beck, Garbage, Stone Temple Pilots, and Foo Fighters. These overplayed radio hits grated with the sheer meticulousness necessary to play a Gran Turismo game, but "Dragula"—even if it's about a car—stood out as the strangest addition to a very methodical, very Japanese take on racing. It could have been different, of course, if Polyphony Digital's obsession with cars led to them putting DRAG-U-LA itself in as a drivable car, but it's doubtful the devloper could cope with simulating its sheer hearsepower. That's not a pun—in fact, I think it's the only metric available for measuring the energy output of hellwagons.

Exhibit C: Jet Grind Radio [Dreamcast, 2000]

Sega had a major issue when launching Jet Grind Radio in the States—it was just too damned Japanese! (Even if they really embraced this quality in their American marketing.) While the altogether unique visuals and soundtrack helped define the Dreamcast's library, Jet Grind Radio's attitude was a far cry from the gritty grimness that stood as the most popular backdrop for video games of the era. So, along with creating a few extra levels for the American version of Jet Grind Radio, Sega added songs with a harder edge, like "Slow" by Professional Murder Music, "Just Got Wicked" by Cold, and, of course, "Dragula." With the game's distinctly '90s hip-hop atmosphere, Jet Grind Radio and "Dragula" went together like oil and water, or, in the parlance of Rob Zombie, undead rats and the cats they feast upon. And it didn't help that the song was well over two years old at that point.

Exhibit D: Twisted Metal 4 [Playstation, 1999]

The visuals of the "Dragula" music video are basically what David Jaffe sees whenever he closes his eyes, so it's no surprise to see the song work so well in his take on post-apocalyptic car combat. While Twisted Metal 4 was really running out the clock on the short-lived genre, the game's soundtrack included some notable acts like Cypress Hill, as well as two additional songs from Zombie himself. In fact, Twisted Metal 4 embraced Dragula Fever to the point where the developers included Zombie as a playable character, with the titular "Dragula" being his vehicle of choice. And Zombie's prize for winning the Twisted Metal tourney? "To let this world hear the wails and war cries of a dead man's soul." Okay then. If you wanted to close out in the '90s in style, there was probably no better way than playing as Dragula while listening to "Dragula" with a six-pack of Surge close at hand. That's Y2K preparedness at its finest.

The Verdict

If anything, "Dragula" is the victim of its own popularity—it's doubtful Rob Zombie knew his simple staccato lyrics about digging ditches and burning witches would capture the Zeitgeist of late-Clinton-era gaming. And "Dragula," like a lot of Zombie's music, was meant to be a bit of a goof—I mean, its name references a '60s sitcom where a Frankenstein married a Dracula and had a werewolf son. If anything, we can place the blame squarely on the video game industry, who, in an attempt to latch on tighter to a young demographic, zeroed in on a single song and made it the poster child for gaming's baditude. But hey, it could have been worse.

It could have been Smash Mouth.

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Comments 12

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  • Avatar for Roto13 #1 Roto13 4 years ago
    I didn't realize this song was in so many games. That's amusing.
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  • Avatar for sean697 #2 sean697 4 years ago
    This song was in far too many games. I don't know where exactly this started, but it could have been Wipeout including real music from bands that got this whole trend started. Till we got stuff like Crazy Taxi with Offspring and Bad Religeon tracks. With Pizza Hut and Fila product placements.
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  • Avatar for metalangel #3 metalangel 4 years ago

    At the time, I had all of these games and was driven (har) to distraction by constantly hearing Dragula. I ranted at length about it on Usenet and the Web too.

    I did, however, impress a girl with the Econoline Crush remixes on the Sled Storm disc.
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  • Avatar for SimonGreedwell #4 SimonGreedwell 4 years ago
    Literally five minutes before I clicked on USgamer I was talking with some friends about how Dragula was everywhere in the late 90s. Totally weird!
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  • Avatar for hal9k #5 hal9k 4 years ago
    Speaking of overplayed late '90s rock, I just heard Filter & Crystal Method's "Trip Like I Do" the other day for the first time in forever. It was on a Taiwanese variety show, of all places (I'm studying Chinese). That reminded me that I constantly used to play the Spawn movie soundtrack, which was a lot better than the movie, while playing Starfox 64. The trick was to sync the CD so that Marilyn Manson & Sneaker Pimps' "Long Hard Road Out of Hell" would come up on the fire level. Good times.
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  • Avatar for VotesForCows #6 VotesForCows 4 years ago
    @sean697 The music in Wipeout was lovely though, and really well integrated into the game. Songs with lyrics in games, on the other hand, always feel odd to me.
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  • Avatar for ping33 #7 ping33 4 years ago
    TOTALLY Disagree on JSR, when the song comes in at the start of chapter two it signals a change in the game. New Area, New Characters greater difficulty.
    The beginning from the radio-static/Train noise and song intro work wonderfully in concert.
    I have played the game through with both soundtracks and, though I don't like Dragula on any other stage of the game, it works phenomenally well in Tag or Die.
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  • Avatar for brionfoulke91 #8 brionfoulke91 4 years ago
    This song really didn't belong in Jet Set Radio. American companies are really clueless sometimes when it comes to music.
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  • Avatar for Monkey-Tamer #9 Monkey-Tamer 3 years ago
    I still listen to tracks from this CD on road trips, loving the utter ridiculousness. As a bonus the wife belts out the backup vocals in the most obnoxious voice possible.
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  • Avatar for DocSuave #10 DocSuave 3 years ago
    Haha Thank you Bob for writing this article! This is something I have thought about for a long time...
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  • Avatar for Tricky_Rich #11 Tricky_Rich 3 years ago
    Bit late for this article, but just wanted to say that "Super Charger Heaven," by the same band, was if anything, even more ubiquitous than this song. I heard it everywhere.
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  • Avatar for FalcoCosio #12 FalcoCosio 2 years ago
    I don't know where exactly this started, but it could have been Wipeout including real music from bands that got this whole trend started, jogos online breathing, but not really, world. Want car go fast make big boom. III, High Stakes and Porsche Unleashed were awesome and fun to play in first person with a steering futebol em directo gratis wheel. The Fast and Furious aping ones that came later just aren't for me. I feel like Project Gotham / Metropolis Street Racer was the only arcadey racers that ver jogos online threaded the space well between Gran Turismo and NFS in the 2000s. Practically everyone else I've heard hated the douchey tuner culture aspect and the characters that came with it, and preferred the series' roots as high-end exotics on scenic tracks.
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