Neurotica prepares for journey into Ozz

Like millions of television viewers, Kelly Shaefer never misses an episode of MTV's hit reality show, "The Osbournes."

It won't be long before Shaefer will meet Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne in person. His band, Neurotica, has been picked to play the second stage of Ozzfest this summer.

Coupled with the band's first major label release June 25 on KOCH/Smackdown! Records, the tour represents the culmination of seven years of hard work. If ever there was a time for Neurotica to gain international stardom, this would be it. "It's a dream," Shaefer said. "If you play hard rock and you want to tour, this is the tour you want to be on. We really needed this to help launch the record."

Neurotica was formed by vocalist Shaefer and guitarist Shawn Bowen in 1995, and quickly gained a loyal following in Tampa Bay with its combination of alternative rock and heavy metal. After two years of toiling away in the clubs, they caught the attention of AC/DC frontman Brian Johnson, who introduced them to Doug Kaye, president of the indie label New Town Music Group.

Johnson produced the band's first album, 1998's "Seed," but neither it nor its follow-up, "Living in Dog Years" (1999), made an impact. Dejected but not done, the band decided to gain a reputation the old-fashioned way � on the road. Members came and went along the way, with the current lineup solidified in 2001: Shaefer, Bowen, guitarist Chris Rollo, bassist Migwell Przybyl and drummer Jason West.

The strategy worked. Last year, Neurotica became the first band signed to Smackdown!, a record label owned by the World Wrestling Federation. The self-titled disc, produced by Kaye and mixed by Kevin "Caveman" Shirley (Black Crowes, Aerosmith, Soil), was scheduled to come out in October, but production delays, the Sept. 11 attacks kept pushing it back. Shaefer promises June 25 is a firm release date.

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