Premiere: The Mortal Prophets Share New Single “Tom Waits in Drag” | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Premiere: The Mortal Prophets Share New Single “Tom Waits in Drag”

New EP Sleeping In My Bed is Out March 15th

Feb 07, 2024
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The Mortal Prophets are a new group led by singer/songwriter John Beckmann, working in a dark and heady style of blues and Americana blended with krautrock and gothic experimental tones. The group debuted last year with their full-length record, Dealy Plaza Blues, and later this year they are set to follow with a new EP, Sleeping in My Bed, out March 15th. The band have already shared the record’s title track, and today they are sharing another new single, “Tom Waits in Drag,” premiering with Under the Radar.

The band pays tribute to one of their most apparent influences with “Tom Waits in Drag,” evoking the titular songwriter’s grimy aesthetics, clattering percussion, and avant-garde arrangements. Though Beckmann’s vocals are less gritty than Waits’, his atmospheric speak-sung vocals convey a similar weariness and dark humor, matching the track’s wounded lyricism and jagged tone. Meanwhile, the track’s story imagines the singer as the titular Tom Waits in Drag, tossed out by a lover and wandering Bourbon Street late at night. The band plays to match the chaos and drama of the imagery, shading the track in a rag-time piano and echoing steel drum.

Check out the song and video below, out everywhere now, along with an introductory Q&A with Beckmann. The Mortal Prophets’ new EP, Sleeping In My Bed is out on March 15th.

Do you have any relationship to the music of Tom Waits? What made this character so compelling for you?

I’m a huge fan of Tom Waits, some of my favorite songs are ‘Gods Away on Business,’ ‘Clap Hands,’ ‘Ol 55,’ and the list goes on. I love his sense of irony, he also seems super cool. He’s the real deal.

So how did he end up as a character makeup-wearing gender bender in my song? I have no idea, to be honest with you. That’s just what came to my mind when the music and lyrics first appeared in the universe, I think songs just happen if you’re in the right space. It does make for a strong visual though, it’s funny. I think the song will amuse him if he hears it. Tom? Text me, let’s chat.

The track’s instrumental is pretty idiosyncratic, mixing rag-time and rock with an African drum beat. What’s it like recording in the studio for a band like the Mortal Prophets?


Thank you! I’m style agnostic. As one of my favorite artists, the surrealist Francia Picabia once said “A painter should change his style as often as he changes his shirts.” For his sake, let’s hope he did so often.

The Mortal Prophets is a loose evolving band of genre-bending roustabouts, insurgents, shapeshifters, musicians, and producers. This particular EP was made in New York and Cork, Ireland, the producer William D. Lucey, brought in his talented team of musicians and friends to bring this album to fruition. I wanted to capture this imaginary freewheeling smoky New Orleans atmosphere. Jon Cobert did some mind-bending abstract honky tonk piano throughout. It’s really fun.

How do you feel like the new EP advances the sound and identity of the Mortal Prophets?


Well first of all it’s pretty significant because most of the previous songs were radical reinterpretations of very early blues songs, Robert Johnson, Lead Belly (and all of those great Delta Blues masters) with a few originals here and there. On this EP except for the Johnny Cash song ‘Cut You Down,’ (which for some unknown reason I insisted on making) these are all originals that I wrote.

This might be the ‘end of the road” for the blues trilogy. I have an enormous batch of new material that will be coming out in 2024, from soundtracks to an opera. And then I found this mysterious German acetate recording (artist unknown), which I can only describe as a mashup of Kraftwerk, and Giorgio Moroder meets Wagnerian Opera, that is musically reinterpreted in a variety of genres, and an alternative indie psychedelic album. There are lots of surprises underfoot.



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