Over the years, K-UTE has provided some off-the-wall programming that doesn't get the attention it deserves, since it's a campus-only radio station that only reaches a limited audience. But if you ever tune into their live stream, you'll get a sense of what a college radio station might sound like without an NPR affiliate. One of the most recent shows to come from the station is The Geekwave
, an hour-long program-turned-podcast and website that focuses on geek culture and news, presented from a more down-to-earth and excited viewpoint. Today we chat with the hosts of the show about the early days and what they've become, as well as how they might continue to grow. (All pictures provided courtesy of The Geekwave.
(Clockwise from upper left) Lee Neuschwander, Logan Erickson, Jarom Norris, and Kimmy Workman
Gavin: Hey everyone! First thing, tell us a bit about yourselves.
My name is Jarom Norris; I often use the nickname “Solar” when on the air. I'm a senior at the University of Utah in the Entertainment Arts and Engineering program. I'm the manager of K-UTE Radio and Executive Producer of The Geekwave, and I've been the producer on several video games, including Shadowscrapers
which is currently in development. I'm a frequent Dungeon Master and occasional DJ, but most people still recognize me from that Comic Con Mario Kart Tournament I took second place in.
I’m Lee Neuschwander, the Director of The Geekwave
, an EAE Programming major at the moment, but I plan on going into Video Game Level Design for my career. I am a huge fan of anime and video games, to the point that my friends question my sanity. In all seriousness, I really do love all the different universes you can see in anime and video games, which is part of why I chose my career path, because I want to make those universes. I’ve really enjoyed meeting new people in college, because I was so quiet in high school. The people I knew back then were very different than the people I know now, and I’m very happy about that.
My name is Kimmy Workman. I’m the Video Producer at The Geekwave
, and an EAE Art major at the U. I’ve been playing the cello for almost 14 years now, and singing since high school. Music was the thing that got me into a world where being smart was cool. But I’ve had a lifelong love for gaming with my family.
What were some of your favorite geeky things growing up that made you lifelong geeks?
Like I mentioned, I highly, highly enjoyed anime, starting with Fairy Tail
in junior high school. From there it basically opened up a geek floodgate if you will. I met some friends that enjoyed playing video games; I got an Xbox so that I could play online with them, and that started a bad habit that led to World of Warcraft
. About five years and several hundred dollars later, I was broke and went back to console games.
Growing up I spent many a day with my siblings and our N64, blowing on cartridges and jamming them into the console way too hard. It was a glorious day beating Master Hand on Super Smash Bros.
Oh, and we can’t forget the Gameboy Color; it only took me nine years to finish my first Pokémon
game. Also, playing an instrument that was a foot taller than me bought me some geek cred. Spending my weekends reading instead of with friends also contributed.
My first love was The Legend of Zelda
. My Nintendo 64 was the core of my geekiness for the longest time, although I also have fond memories of playing Halo
with my family. I also was super into fantasy novels, favorites included Eragon
and Percy Jackson
. And of course, Saturday morning cartoons including Yu-Gi- Oh!
, Xiaolin Showdown
, Teen Titans
What are some of the current things you're all involved with and love reading/watching/playing?
My family got Netflix this summer and I said goodbye to my extra time. I’m now not-so-proudly addicted to The Vampire Diaries
, I’m caught up on The Flash
. Also The 100
, that show’s an interesting waste of my time. I’ve been playing in one D&D campaign for three years now, and jumping around several others more recently. Last year I read 300+ novels, some of my favorites were The Maddox Brothers
series, the #Nerd
series, and Scorched
. Ah! I can’t forget about this new world of PC gaming I found recently. I spend way too much time playing games like The Elder Scrolls Online
Oh, geez. I’m generally consuming so much media at once. I just finished reading the Star Wars
novel Lost Stars
, and I think my next book will either be Armada
or the second book of Star Wars: Aftermath
. I’m watching New Girl
and Last Man Standing
, but I also just started A Series of Unfortunate Events
on Netflix and I’m excited to get more into that. As for games, I’m constantly playing Hearthstone
and The Elder Scrolls
online, but I’m also currently in the middle of Fire Emblem Fates Birthright
, Pokémon Sun
and Big Pharma
, not to mention all of the games I play once every few weeks. I’ve also just discovered the webcomic Darths and Droids
, which is a screen capture comic that portrays the Star Wars
movie as a tabletop RPG. Speaking of which, I’m also playing in a couple of Dungeons and Dragons campaigns, and I’m about to start a Star Wars
tabletop RPG and a Call of Cthulu
Currently I’ve gotten a lot more into PC games like League of Legends
and shooting games because I’ve found that’s what the majority of people and clubs here on campus are playing. It’s interesting to see the video game culture in college compared with the culture in high school because back then we all went home to play and here we all go to school to play. Since joining The Geekwave
I’ve been reading a lot of geek news such as new technologies, new game ideas and reviews.
How did each of you end up taking an interest in going to the University of Utah?
I always wanted to go into Computer Science and Game Development, and since I was in advanced programs in high school, I thought getting into Stanford would be my goal. But then I had a recruiter from the U come and tell me that the U had the number one game development program in the country, and that it was an emphasis in the computer science department. That sounded pretty good to me, plus I knew that the U would be a lot cheaper and have a lot more scholarship opportunities than Stanford would. So I came here.
Originally my intentions were to be a Cello Performance Major. I picked the University of Utah because they have a great music program, and the University appealed to me with all of its diversity and opportunity. But lots of drama happened, and now I’m in EAE.
I was actually planning on going to Neumont University, and I probably would have if I didn’t miss the ACT requirement by one point. So I re-evaluated where to go, and I found out the U had a great bachelor’s program in Game Design as well as its excellent Master’s program.
When did you all meet each other and become friends?
My first or second week at the U I ended up looking up the clubs. My plan was always that if I failed at becoming a game designer, my plan-b would be radio. So I met Jarom, who was tabling at an event on campus, and I talked to him about getting on K-UTE. Next thing I knew I was on The Geekwave
with him and Logan, and 45 blog posts later I was the Director of The Geekwave
I met Jarom in high school before we even knew what K-UTE was. We really bonded over Disney hangman during our calculus class. We also spent a lot of time together when we were both officers in the choir department. We were part of the few in our friend group who went to the U, and my first experience with Radio was going on his show Experiment Airwave
with him. It was weird, and so when he launched The Geekwave
he couldn’t convince me to join at first. Now I wish I had joined much earlier.
How did the concept behind The Geekwave come about?
That was me. I joined K-UTE Radio when I came to college because I had DJ’d a few dances in high school and thought it would be a good mix between my loves of music and technology. Back then, K-UTE allowed anybody to create their own show from scratch with very little direction, so I started coming up with plans for a geek talk show. Then I got assigned a new intern named Claire Heman, and together we launched The Geekwave
. The name is actually a funny story: I had a lot of name ideas, some more complicated than others, and so we created a poll on the K-UTE Facebook page with all of them. I felt like I needed one more option for the poll so I threw up The Geekwave
as a last-second thought. It ended up being the most popular option, so we went with it.
What made you decide to launch it on K-UTE at the start? What was that initial run like for you?
Launching it on K-UTE was the easiest option, and I already had all of the knowledge to do it. Since this show was kind of unique on campus, we wanted to make it a big deal—we pulled our connections with several of the clubs to support us, we created a Facebook page and logos, and we launched a public Minecraft
server to go along with it. The initial run was very well received and exciting, it was really fun to create this community, show up at club meetings to promote our show, and get them involved and on the air.
What made you eventually decide to switch to a weekly podcast and branch out to a four-person panel?
When I became the manager of K-UTE Radio, I decided to switch up the way we did live radio. We put some more structure in the schedule and filled it with more music, and we re-launched K-UTE’s website as a platform for university podcasts to be published. The Geekwave
became the first podcast on that new website. Although when the podcast first launched, Claire and Kelby had just graduated, so I was the only one left. Our first few episodes were all me talking to club leaders on campus until I hired Logan and Lee.
How do you go about deciding the topics you feel like discussing on each episode?
In the past, we’ve usually met a day or so in advanced to brainstorm what we’d talk about. Then we’d all get together with an idea of what would be interesting to talk about and just let the conversation go. We all do research beforehand so that we can talk about the most recent and trendy things, but a lot of that also just happens in our daily lives because we’re geeks. Part of the fun of the entire thing is that it’s mostly improv; you never really know what’s going to happen on the show, even when Jarom tries to keep us on-topic.
To me, the most exciting and entertaining episodes are the ones where we start with a topic, but then it tangents into this glorious jumble of chaos, and everybody’s laughing and yelling at each other. Most times, though, we definitely have more structure, talking about current events and interviewing interesting people.
What's the response been like from listeners as you've slowly grown over the past two years?
I wasn't there with Jarom and Claire, but I’ve been told about the times when their major listener was Kelby’s mom, who they would give shout outs to every week. When my experience started, I would be elated if the number of viewers went over 20 people. Now we have almost 500 likes on Facebook and our blog posts regularly get around 50 views and sometimes break 200.
Our audience is always really positive and supportive of us, and that’s awesome. Since the show is embedded in student life, though, there are some complications that come with that. Our staff changes semester-to-semester, our audience does as well. People get busier and engagement goes down, and then new students come in and get really excited and we get to re-introduce The Geekwave
again and again. It can be kind of hectic, but the idea of a student-run geek show is really cool so our audience is really supportive.
What made you decide to add in the video element and have all the shows available on YouTube?
I think Jarom had the idea originally, playing off of online podcasts like Rooster Teeth
that just put cameras on their hosts. It was really pushed forward by Logan, who had a very visual style of humor. At the time all of Student Media was developing its video capabilities, and so we wanted to jump on and try some new things. We felt like we could do so many more things and be a little more unique if we were a video talk show instead of just a podcast.
There’s been a ton of challenges in doing video. We were on hiatus for over a month while we filmed episode after episode that was just not good. Finding a location with good sound quality, transporting our equipment and microphones, using multiple cameras correctly, everything went wrong during that period. Still, to this day we have videos with weird coloring or a mic will go bad or something, but our quality is steadily improving. And that’s what starting a new project is all about, right?
The website for the show has grown as well with news and reviews. What kind of challenge has it been growing that aspect and foster a community there?
That’s been super interesting. That started back at the beginning with me, Claire, and Kelby writing blog posts on K-UTE’s website to try and add another dimension to our radio show. Then it continued on with Logan and Lee and we started seeing more potential in it, and more people interested in that kind of writing. The only writing we’ve really had at Student Media was for the Daily Utah Chronicle
, which is pretty limited in the kind of “geek” stuff you can write. So when we designed the new website we wanted to give people a place to do that.
Now we have between six to 10 writers on staff at any given time writing articles ranging from science news to reviews of movies, video games, books and anime. Everyone on our staff is student writers and giving them that opportunity is pretty cool and gives a certain perspective to the writing.
We’ve had challenges creating any sort of “commenter community” there, but our readership is strong and we get a lot of support on our social media pages where we share the articles. We’ve also had plenty of strangers find our content and reach out to us to compliment us or ask us to review their work next.
What's your experience been like going to conventions and hosting live panels?
The most recent live show we’ve done was Anime Banzai, which I was really happy to be a part of. We did an episode there as well as a panel. It’s one thing to do a show with a couple of your friends, it’s a completely different thing to do it with 20 or more other people laughing with you. Or at you, depending on how it goes. We’ve been recording episodes at Anime Banzai for years, but this was the first time we got to do it in front of an audience.
Going to conventions as a podcaster is exhausting but absolutely fun. You get to see the convention through the eye of the media, you get more involved with what’s going on. Sometimes you see an up-and- coming artist or writer and you know that you can help them and invite them on the show.
Wearing a press pass is nice too because nobody questions you when you start taking up-close pictures of everything.
Or wear a 360 camera helmet in the middle of the convention floor. Well, people still questioned me. But that was probably one of the most memorable things I’ve done now.
What kind of challenge has it been holding your place in a city with so many geek-related podcasts?
It’s been both a challenge and a blessing. Salt Lake City is such a great place for geeks, and it shows in the number of geek podcasts there are as well as the demand for those podcasts. We also have other jobs and classes and full schedules so actually keeping up with other shows can be a real challenge. Our advantage is that we’re the show with the biggest presence on-campus. And since the U has such a big Game Development and Computer Science department, and is becoming a leader in e-sports and science research, that means there are a lot of geeks on campus that we can reach out too. We’re part of the university community and they support us.
On top of that, there’s a bunch of cool content being created here in Utah, like I mentioned before. And being able to find a locally-developed video game, make a video of us playing it, and then send it to the developer to support them is really cool. Or meeting a comic-book creator, or a chiptunes artist, and giving them a review or putting their music on our show. Giving back to this geek-rich community is really important to us.
Where do you hope to take the show and the site as they continue to grow?
I see The Geekwave
as a hub of sorts for people to look and interact with the geek community that we have on campus and in Salt Lake City. When I came to this school my first thought was to graduate and be on my way. However, since finding out that we have such a great geek/nerd/gamer/otaku community, I’ve found myself lost in the excitement. It's no small stretch to say that coming to the University of Utah has changed the way I interact with others in a positive way. If The Geekwave
can serve as an open door invitation to our on and off campus community then I can graduate with a warm fuzzy feeling of accomplishment.
What can we expect from all of you and The Geekwave over the rest of 2017?
We’re planning on releasing more video content this year, we’ve actually got a couple new regular shows that we’re working on. We don’t want to announce anything yet, but the subject of one will be horror and another will be science. We’re also going to keep developing our blog posts and reviews and find more people that like writing and help them get some experience. We are also really excited to attend conventions such as FanX this year and give our viewers some cool stuff from that.
We’re also strengthening our ties with the Crimson Gaming group that throws gaming events around the city and hoping to help make their events better, as well as throw a few of our own events. We’ve built such a strong platform, and now we need to work on more ways to help it grow, so we’re reaching out more than ever to offer services to the community in exchange for support. Last semester we helped promote a big board game event at Mystic Games in Sandy, and we’d like to do more stuff like that.
The rest of 2017 is a long time. But, like Lee said we have a lot of really cool concepts in our sights. As The Geekwave
has grown we’ve met some really awesome students with even more spectacular ideas, and we cannot wait to make them come to life! If everything works out well we hope to be sending out loads of creative geeky content for 2017.