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Editor's column

Berlin, please remember to get your party pills checked

The recent deaths of John Juan Mendez and Jose Luis Vasquez (two mainstays of the Berlin club scene) is a potent reminder to get your pills checked and party responsibly.

Photo: Max Titov / Unsplash

On January 18, the world lost two musicians, both of whom had a great impact not just on the Berlin club scene, but also on me, personally. The tragic deaths of Silent Servant (John Juan Mendez) and The Soft Moon (Jose Luis Vasquez), were preventable, caused by suspected fentanyl overdoses. Only by having an honest conversation about recreational drug usage will we all be able to find some solace and move forward.

Just earlier this year, fentanyl was picked up in an attendee’s Methylmethcathinone (3-MMC)

Berlin’s music scene would be very different today if it hadn’t been for the contributions of Californian producers Mendez and Vasquez. Although not residents of the city, their music played a significant part in influencing and evolving Berlin’s dark, electronic sounds. Mendez’s work, either as part of the band Sandwell District or through his own productions, spoke to that side of the club scene that grew up listening to The Cure and loved spending their weekends in the dark corners of Berghain. His gothic, EBM, electronic and techno sounds permeated the records of almost every techno artist in Berlin over the past 15 years. A hugely influential and prominent figure in the club scene, the loss of Mendez is unfathomable.

Luis Vasquez, vocalist and guitarist for The Soft Moon. Photo: Gonzales Photo

Vasquez, whose one-man band, The Soft Moon, I had seen at SO36 just half a year ago, had become somewhat of a cult figure in Berlin. His post-punk, dark wave music took on elements of Suicide and even Depeche Mode, and ran the gamut of every 80s new-wave band that called Berlin their home. Following in the footsteps of his idols, Vasquez himself even relocated to Berlin after the release of his second album Zeroes, before eventually moving back to the US. It was always delivered with a vigorous and emotional energy that somewhat juxtaposed his kind and graceful character. Mendez and Vasquez died at the ages of 46 and 44.

John Juan Mendez (aka Silent Servant). Photo: Silent Servant / Imago images

Although their deaths, alongside Mendez’s partner Simone Ling, occurred in Mendez’s apartment in Los Angeles, the tragic incident hit close to home. Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine, all too often finds its way into the recreational drugs currently used by partygoers in Berlin. Just earlier this year, fentanyl was picked up in an attendee’s Methylmethcathinone (3-MMC), as discovered at the drug checking lab.

Aside from the obvious (abstaining entirely), the best way to ensure your own safety is to make use of drug testing facilities available in the city. Drugchecking.berlin runs free testing from their labs in Neukölln and Kreuzberg; their website is also kept up to date with news about impurities recently found in recreational drugs. You can also buy testing kits online, but it’s all the more important you do your research beforehand as some are rated less reliable than others. To be absolutely certain about what you’re taking, make sure you use proper facilities or testing gear. It is the only way to make sure that the tragic loss of Mendez and Vasquez – and many who have gone before them – will not have been in vain.