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Ferris O’Brien talks about the return of 105.3 FM “The Spy”

George Lang Published: November 20, 2009

“The Spy” is currently locked in a basement, but Ferris O’Brien promises to release it in three days.

Five years ago, 105.3 FM “The Spy” left the airwaves, replaced by a Spanish language station, and a great experiment in ultra-alternative rock radio was consigned to history. Now O’Brien, the morning disc jockey on The Spy, has bought the station from Citadel Broadcasting and the long dormant Spy returns to the airwaves Monday.

“I’ve been working on this at least since March — actually physically working on this deal,” said O’Brien. “But in all actuality, this has been something I’ve been thinking about doing, wanting to be doing, for the last 10 years.”

O’Brien, whose career in radio began with KDGE-FM in Dallas, eventually moved to Stillwater, where he was a key player on KSPI-FM, the stylistic precursor to KSYY. KSPI-FM changed formats in 2000, and O’Brien joined 105.3 FM when that station adopted a deep alternative format in December 2002, playing a diverse selection of underground British and domestic rock.

After KSYY changed formats in June 2004, O’Brien continued to work with Citadel, hosting a “Spy Radio” program on KATT-FM. But O’Brien said his dream has always been to run his own station, and he reached an agreement earlier this year to purchase the station from Citadel with his own money and investment from family members.

Since embarking on the process of buying the station, O’Brien has been collecting and programming the necessary equipment and reaching out to past colleagues such as former Chainsaw Kittens singer Tyson Meade, one of the regular deejays on the station. Meade, who now lives and teaches in Shanghai, China, is expected to return to The Spy with a regular show recorded half a world away.

In the meantime, O’Brien is filling his equipment with digital song files, ranging from classics by The Smiths and Talking Heads to local bands such as Pretty Black Chains.

“I’ve had the automation system for about two months, and I am still working on it today,” he said. “I lock myself in my basement, and my wife refers to it as “mad scientist syndrome.”

While he acknowledged that there are big risks involved in this undertaking, O’Brien said he thinks he can operate a profitable business while bringing a radio legend back to life.

“You know, I’m not in this specifically to get filthy, stinking rich, where I fill up a bedroom with 100-dollar bills and roll around naked. If that happens, that’s great, too. But if I break even and make a good living and can pay the bills and keep it on the air, I know I can do that.”

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