Menubar Home

Spiritual Bum - the "interactive" section

Main page of CDROM The CD release of Spiritual Bum was Stephen's first release to feature an interactive component, accessible on any computer with a CDROM drive and a web browser.

The CDROM component contains:

  • Stephen's introduction to the album
  • album lyrics with notes by Stephen for each song
  • photographs and brief bios on the musicians involved
  • notes about the recording sessions by Stephen and Robert Goodge
  • a biography detailing Stephen's musical career
  • a discography of his solo album releases
  • information about Stephen's two novels, the first four chapters of Wonderboy and a complete short story
  • a selection of screen backgrounds for your computer
  • links to related internet resources (such as this website)

How was the "interactive section" created?

I think this is an interesting story so...

The CDROM component was created in London, UK by myself and Ross Robinson (ie. the people who created this website). I came up with the bright idea one day in December '98 and mentioned it to Stephen in an email. Stephen spoke to the people at Festival Records but they didn't seem too interested. When Stephen hooked up with Graham and Steve at WMinc Productions in March '99, he mentioned the idea to them and they greeted it enthusiastically (partly because of our non-existent price tag). They went back to Festival and finally got their approval for it.

Little did we realise what we'd volunteered for. We were keen to get started immediately but we had very little to work with. Simply placing the website on the disc was not an option because of it's constantly mutating nature, and more importantly, because of all of the copyright clearances we'd have to acquire. Our vision for the section was to expand on the information found in the liner notes and to provide some background on Stephen and his career.

Gradually we began to pull things together. Ross and I sat down and started sketching out ideas for what should be included and how it should be structured. We began assembling what we could and Ross started designing artwork for the various sections. From very early in the process we maintained the working version on a "hidden" page on the internet so that Graham (our principal contact at WMinc) and Stephen could watch our ideas unfold. One early design decision was to make the section white-based, as it would keep everything looking clean and make all of the text easy to read.

Graham and Stephen put us in touch with the graphic artist designing the album artwork who gave us copies of the cover design, photos and the fonts being used. We were dismayed to discover that the cover artwork was black-based, so we quickly switched our approach to fit in with that. Stephen sent us the album lyrics and test pressings of the album - of course, his typed lyrics and those sung on the album varied noticeably. Stephen also sent on most of the text of Wonderboy so we could include just a few chapters.

While most of the resources were sent to us via email, a few packages of goodies arrived via the international post. Two packages from Stephen contained a real mish-mash of material, from masking tape used on his home studio mixing desk to random photos from all periods of his career. Some of the material was a godsend (eg. press clippings) but some proved to be a bit of a nightmare: a number of the trannies from the Falling Swinger and A New Kind of Blue cover shoots were heavily creased. Some of the photos were damaged - a great shot of Stephen playing guitar at an instore appearance for A New Kind of Blue had a hole right through Stephen's left shoulder.

For problems such as these, Ross's skills with Photoshop proved invaluable: we were able to use this damaged photo after some clever touching up (see the second page of the bio for the finished result). While I was nagging Graham for particular resources Ross was busy creating images for use on every page. While graphics are not heavily used on this website to accommodate those with low-speed internet connections, we had no such restrictions on the CDROM. The finished result features over 200 individual images.

The section detailing the musicians proved particularly difficult to assemble. I was adamant that I wanted photos of all musicians (many of them familiar to anyone who has pored over the liner notes to Stephen's previous albums) but it was left to Graham to track down everyone and get hold of photos. The latter part was generally easy; it was the former that often constituted a difficult task. And then when that was finally done, the ordeal wasn't over: he had to get the image scanned so he could email it to us. Stephen contributed the mini-bios which sometimes saw slight revisions by me.

While the section was a collaborative effort between myself and Ross, there were only a few sit-down-together sessions. Most of the time Ross sent me images across town via email, I responded with requests for adjustments (I'm sure this drove him quite batty) and he'd send back a modified version. Like Graham and Stephen, he could watch it all coming together by examining the working version on the net.

The other fans were deliberately kept in the dark about what we were doing. My main goal with the website has always been to keep the fans informed, but we were never 100% certain that this would actually appear on the album. We'd read enough stories about record companies changing their minds to anticipate that we might be hit by the same thing ourselves. You have to remember we were doing it in our spare time (unpaid!) from the other side of the planet - it was a little unconventional, to say the least. It was only when we began dealing with the person responsible for preparing the master of the CD that it became clear it would finally happen. By then, the pre-release publicity was already starting to mention it.

The final days of the "project" were rather stressful. We were both getting a little weary of it (we started in March and finished in June) and when Ross finished all of his bits, I still had to write the biography. I'd started one a couple of years previously (see the intro page on this site) but I'd never been happy with it so I decided to re-write most of it. The end result took most of a day to write, the day before the finished result was handed over. Normally when I write things I like to have a few days breathing space to enable the editor in me to distance himself from the writer but this time I didn't have that luxury. Looking at it now, I'd love to tweak it a little more but obviously, it's too late for that now.

Anyway, we hope you find our efforts worthwhile. It was certainly one of the most bizarre, challenging and rewarding projects I've ever been involved in. Seeing my name on the cover of an album from one of my favourite musicians is a bit of a buzz.

the Stephen Cummings site - email: feedback AT