What a feeling! Welding tutor gets flash of US fame

20th February 2015 at 00:00
But singer is back to work after `surreal' brush with celebrity

It's not uncommon for college lecturers to have a part-time job to supplement their income. But few lead as remarkable a double life as Des McCabe.

At Forth Valley College in Scotland, he works as a fabrication and welding lecturer. On the other side of the Atlantic, however, Mr McCabe is better known as the frontman of chart-topping rock band Dead Man Fall.

The 35-year-old's unlikely brush with fame came after his band's song Bang Your Drum attracted the attention of Scottish-born Craig Ferguson, presenter of The Late Late Show in the US. This triggered an extraordinary series of events, which resulted in the song hitting the top of the American iTunes rock chart and being used in a video featuring Hollywood A-listers Samuel L Jackson, Matthew McConaughey and Quentin Tarantino.

But despite his band's international success, Mr McCabe is now back in his workshop at the college where he has worked for more than 11 years. "I enjoy welding," he told TES. "It is an art that you have to master and a bit of a challenge."

After playing local gigs for several years without making a mainstream breakthrough, Dead Man Fall decided to try to gain some more publicity.

"One day, we were sitting, talking about how we could get the [Bang Your Drum] video seen and we wondered who we could tweet it to - and then Craig Ferguson's name came up. We tweeted him the link to the song and he then posted it on his timeline," Mr McCabe said.

Shortly afterwards, one of his bandmates received a phone call, inviting the band to appear on The Late Late Show. "The band member who found out first couldn't reach us for a while and he said that was the closest he had ever felt to spontaneous combustion," Mr McCabe said.

However, it appeared that the dream would be dashed when the band were unable to secure US visas in time. But the show's producers then came back with another idea: they would put together their own video for the song.

The result, which marked Mr Ferguson's final appearance as host of the show in December, starred celebrities including Pierce Brosnan, Mila Kunis, Kevin Bacon and Lisa Kudrow.

"We didn't get to see the video until about an hour before everyone else saw it," Mr McCabe said. "I was watching it in a daze. It wasn't until the bit where Desmond Tutu pops up that I woke up.

"Shortly after the video was shown, the song started making its way up the charts," he added. "It went all the way to number one in the American iTunes rock chart and there were thousands of downloads."

The lecturer has kept his feet on the ground, however. "We are all quite pragmatic," he said. "We just knew it was something that was good to have on our CV and we hope it will lead to exciting opportunities this year."

Not surprisingly, the college's learners have also been excited by their tutor's success. "It's all quite surreal," said welding and fabrication student Callum Neeson. "We're all really proud of what Des has achieved though; it's nice to see someone you know become so successful."

Students and staff at Forth Valley College have even made their own version of the music video in recognition of the band's efforts.

Principal Ken Thomson said: "We are all so proud of Des and what he has achieved with his band Dead Man Fall. It was a very nice gesture for him to allow us to use the song for our own film."

And although it is now back to the day job for Mr McCabe, he hasn't quite come to terms with the roller coaster of the past few weeks. "Watching the video now, it doesn't really sink in that that is my voice," he said.

Watch the video


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar, Buyagift.com, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today