Former NEUROTICA frontman Kelly Shaefer remains one of the top candidates to fill the vacant singer slot in the new band formed by ex-GUNS N' ROSES members Slash, Izzy Stradlin, Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum. "Slash called me about three weeks ago and told me I was still in the top three, and to just chill," Shaefer told Bradenton Herald last week. "I've got my fingers crossed."The band — tentatively called THE PROJECT — are still auditioning vocalists, including Travis Meeks of DAYS OF THE NEW and former SKID ROW frontman Sebastian Bach. However, despite rampant rumors to the contrary, no decision has yet been made with regards to who will nab the much-coveted spot. Meanwhile, Shaefer is continuing to press ahead with plans to form a new project following last month's surprising break-up of NEUROTICA after an eight-year run. The singer — who denies rumors that he is planning to reform ATHEIST, the acclaimed early '90s prog-death outfit he fronted before NEUROTICA — is cutting solo tracks at Paradox City Studios in Sarasota and is assembling a team that looks likely to include NEUROTICA guitarist Chris Rollo and drummer Jason West. Doug Kaye of 11th Hour Entertainment, who managed NEUROTICA and produced their major-label debut, is managing and producing the new project as well. "It's AUDIOSLAVE meets QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE," Shaefer said of the new band's musical direction. "Very straight-forward, super-rocking with big hooks, but with a lot of ZEPPELIN-esque qualities, which I really love." AC/DC vocalist Brian Johnson, who discovered NEUROTICA in a Sarasota club in 1995 and produced the band's first independent album, "Seed", remains supportive of the singer. "From the moment I first saw Kelly, I knew something was different about him," Johnson said. "I still believe he has a huge future. It's a shame what happened with NEUROTICA, but Kelly has the ability to jump right back in the saddle." No matter what happens with THE PROJECT, Shaefer insists that will be back on the scene in 2003 in some form. He hopes to have a new lineup finalized by January, with a CD and tour following in the spring or summer. He's also been writing songs with END OF JUNE, a Sarasota hard rock band formerly known as E3. Kaye is producing END OF JUNE's next CD. "No matter what happens, at the beginning of the year, I'm going to come out swinging," Shaefer said.
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