In the year 2007, there was a young man who was way into Generation 4. Pokemon had finally made a step into the Wifi battling and trainers around the world can now battle and trade on the global scale. This young man from Columbus, Ohio had a dream to expand his little club to everybody. He wanted to have battles in an underground arena where only champions can compete. All he had was a microphone, an internet connection, a Nintendo DS loaded with Pokemon Diamond, a few friends and a heart filled with spirit. Though he had a love for Pokemon that he wanted to share with the world.
This is the story of Thatch and how the Pokemon Underground Champions League Podcast has grown into more than just a club.
In honor of P.U.C.L. Podcast’s 8th anniversary, we here at Pokemon Crossroads decided to interview Thatch. He is the founder of the P.U.C.L. Podcast and long time host. This interview is filled with many interesting questions that goes deep into P.U.C.L.’s history and how it has grown along side with Thatch. We hear about how the P.U.C.L. has gained a community that literally has become part of the podcast in more was then one.
So please join us for an interview with a person who was once a boy with a microphone and is now a man with a community of friends.
Pokemon Crossroads: The P.U.C.L. Podcast started eight years ago, what made you decide to start a Pokemon podcast?
Thatch: Podcasts started to be a thing I believe around 2006, probably before then in some fashion. I always had an interest in being a radio DJ and when I heard of podcasts, I thought that it might be a way to fill the desire I had to be a radio DJ. I just had to find a topic I was passionate to talk about. Just as I am now, I was always into Pokemon, so I chose Pokemon as the topic of the show. There was actually an earlier version of PUCL called, “Pokechat” I think it is long gone on the internet and the hard drive that contained those episodes has since been wiped, so there really isn’t a way to listen to these shows, but I promise you are not missing out on anything.
PXR: Why did you decide on calling the podcast “P.U.C.L. Podcast”?
Thatch: That is actually a pretty interesting story. P.U.C.L. or the Pokemon Underground Champion’s League for long, was not originally intended to be a podcast. I really got into the idea of creating a Pokemon community when Diamond and Pearl were released. Pokemon finally had online battling and trading capabilities and I wanted to use those to its fullest potential because being in high school at the time there were not too many people actually playing Pokemon publicly since it wasn’t “cool.” Even though this happened, my friend, known to the PUCL community as Sycamore, and I found a group of friends that did play Pokemon, and we thought we should have a name for our little club, and we decided to call ourselves the Pokemon Underground Champions. Eventually we would have small tournaments on Pokemon Battle Revolution in our homes and we decided to call this tournament circuit the Pokemon Underground Champion’s League or P.U.C.L.
Eventually after the Diamond and Pearl hyped died down, Sycamore and I decided we should do a podcast, after the failed Pokechat. We decided to try to expand our club with it and you can even hear that call to action in our first episode.
PXR: How and why did you create the “Blackthorn Council”? Why that name?
Thatch: The creation of the Blackthorn Council was one of the more recent events in the P.U.C.L. timeline. After graduating from college with my bachelors, Bocefus was my right hand man. I also had help from other prominent members such as Scizorkick and Cleary. After about 5 years of running PUCL on my own I decided I needed some help if we were to podcast the right way. I also had a history of hiring unreliable people, and now that I was in the company of some of the most reliable people PUCL has ever seen, I decided I wanted a system where members from the community could in a way run the podcast and keep me in check. So we formed the Blackthorn Council, a way for these prominent members that cared about the show and the community as much as I did. They all have the power to help vote for new members, they have input in what happens in the community and they run various aspects. It is honestly wonderful and I can not thank them enough for their help.
As for the name, that is another story. Back when P.U.C.L. was still just a club and not a podcast. Sycamore and I drafted a constitution. We called the governing body the “Blackthorn Council.” because we were in high school and at the time it sounded cool. To keep with the pokemon theme I brought it back to P.U.C.L. when we decided to make a new governing body, and I think everyone involved thinks it is pretty cool too.
PXR: Currently the podcast is being broadcast from Lavender Town. What is the story behind the creation of the podcast’s lore?
Thatch: Ah yes, the lore. If you listen to a lot of the early episodes of P.U.C.L. you can hear many more references to us being in the Pokemon world. It is something that we have definitely left behind to a large extent, but us broadcasting from a Pokemon world radio station is the one thing we have held onto as well as some of our commercials. There have been thoughts of bringing back some of our older aspects such as our interviews with popular Pokemon characters. Bo is actually leading the charge there. So maybe in 2016 people will start to see a shift in the dynamic a little bit where we have some fun being in the Pokemon world. We’ll have to see.
PXR: Earlier you mention “Pokechat”. What were some of the things you learn from running that podcast that helped you in creating and running the P.U.C.L. Podcast?
Thatch: Pokechat taught me you needed a structure, and that podcasting on your own isn’t much fun. So I made sure I was always podcasting with someone else from that day forward.
PXR: Several people have joined the podcast/council throughout the years and have left, which old members do you miss the most and would love to have back for just one more episode?
Thatch: We have had a lot of people on in the past. If I were to bring back anyone though, it would have to be Infinity. At the time he was helping with the podcast, a number of other people who would not be up to the Council standards today, but Infinity was different. He was knowledgeable about the metagame and he was an all around good guy. He was actually on episode 115 to review X and Y with us on its release date.
PXR: What are your opinion of the podcast’s first ten episodes? Do you like them? Anything you wish could have come out differently?
Thatch: The old episodes have a place in my heart obviously. They were the first episodes of an 8 year old podcast. As the saying goes though, you are always most critical of your own work. I wouldn’t call them my masterpieces, everyone has to learn to podcast somehow and those early episodes are clearly those for us. Lots of mistakes and audio issues. Thankfully, the practice I have gotten throughout the years have allowed me to make the show even better. I wish I was just a natural at podcasting and never had any issues, but that even happens today. I do it as a hobby rather than a full time or part time job so I can only do so much. These episodes though are something special in that you can watch me learn how to podcast slowly over the course of the past 8 years.
PXR: The P.U.C.L. Podcast has covered several different topics. What is the process in picking a topic of an episode?
Thatch: The process varies heavily. When there is big news we like to dedicate an episode to it. When the news gets a little slow we typically have a backlog of topics we have thought of previously that we have to choose from. Sometimes that will run out and we will take a fan’s suggestion and mold it into something a bit more manageable. There are other considerations as well. Depending on who is hosting that week I have to choose something that is to their strengths. If anyone has listened to the podcast they realize that some hosts have better competitive knowledge than others. So I try to use competitive topics with those that know it. Leaving casual topics to the rest. It works pretty well, but every time we have a pretty fun conversation.
PXR: What is your favorite thing about the Pokemon fandom?
Thatch: This is a difficult question to answer. I would have to say the fans themselves. This is an awesome fandom to be a part of. Most people involved are generally kind and inviting. Communities love working together, such as P.U.C.L. and Pokemon Crossroads. I have met so many people through being a member of it, and I can’t stress enough how much I love just meeting people with this common passion.
PXR: What do you enjoy about the podcast’s fans?
Thatch: Their ideas and conversations. They all have awesome ideas for the podcast and for content in the show. I try to deliver on that as much as I can. I said referring to topics that I sometimes have to mold their ideas to get them to fit into a show, but for the most part I love what they bring to the table. We read their emails on the show every week and just hearing their opinions is awesome, most of them are rather enlightening.
PXR: What kind of advice would you give to any of the podcast’s fans who may be interested in podcasting? Either Pokemon or another subject.
Thatch: If you want to podcast, you aren’t going to be able to do it well the first few times. You have to develop a personality and figure out what kind of show you want it to be. You should also come up with a release schedule. Most of all though, make sure to have fun with it.
PXR: How do you think the podcast has grown since the beginning?
Thatch: Well, I have for one matured, not as just a podcaster but as a person, which I think sets a different tone for the show. For the first time, the shows hosts are people directly from the community who care about the community just as much as I do. The quality is better, as well as the enthusiasm. The community has also taken hold of P.U.C.L. being its place to hang out and talk pokemon.
PXR: Where do you think the podcast will be in another three years?
Thatch: Well, I have plans to expand our range of content this upcoming year. Hopefully that will actually work out. If it does, I see PUCL having a lot more content to offer than just our weekly podcast. I would also like to to see it grow in another 3 years to become a larger community.
PXR: What is your favorite podcast memory?
Thatch: If we are just including moments when I am recording, I would have to say episode 115 when we were all preparing to do that live show. That was fun, Bo and I talked for hours beforehand, everyone else showed up an hour beforehand and we just had the best time hanging out and playing our favorite game.
If we want to refer to the community, I would have to say this past year at Pokemon nationals in Indianapolis, during our “P.U.C.L.con” event. I got to meet a bunch of people I have known online for so long in real life. Including yourself Mikey. That was an experience that was out of this world and I can not wait for another chance to do it again this upcoming summer.
PXR: Which podcast episode from the last year would you like to recommend to new listeners and why?
Thatch: There were a lot of good ones this year, but I probably can only knock it down to a few episodes. First is the 200th episode of P.U.C.L. Recording these live shows are a lot of fun, and doing something where we get together and celebrate our community is just unreal to do.
A regular episode though that happened this year that I think came out great would have to be episode 182. We did some game speculation which is always fun, and it had one of the best fan mailbag segments I can remember.
We also did a bonus episode this past year for a charity event run by Radio Whirlwind. That episode was a blast to make and listen to if you would like to hear how we are literally all friends at PUCL.
Lastly, we have started doing monthly TCG podcasts as well this past year and I think that are of phenomenal quality.
PXR: Lastly, what would you like to tell to fans of the podcasts?
Thatch: Thanks, for listening for the past 8 years! I hope pokemon sticks around as well as all of you for another 8!
Thank you Thatch for sitting down with us for a wonderful interview about P.U.C.L. and it’s rich history. We here at PXR are glad to work with you guys and like to wish everybody from P.U.C.L.’s past and present staff a huge thanks and congratulations for reaching such a milestone. You guys have an amazing podcast and hopefully your 8th anniversary will be a great one. Happy 8th anniversary!