Soft Moon musician Luis Vasquez, DJ Juan Mendez found dead

Jose “Luis” Vasquez, a California musician who found fame with the post-punk project the Soft Moon, and John “Juan” Mendez, a popular Los Angeles DJ who performed as Silent Servant, were among three people found dead last week at a downtown Los Angeles loft in a suspected fentanyl overdose, authorities said Sunday.

Vasquez, 44, performed globally and at last year’s Cruel World alternative music festival in Pasadena. His death was lamented in a post on Soft Moon’s Facebook page, which called it a “huge loss” and said “our hearts are broken.” Simone Ling, 43, identified in media reports as Mendez’s partner, also was found dead.

The three were found Thursday at Mendez’s and Ling’s residence at the Pacific Electric Lofts on Main Street after a welfare check sought by Vasquez’s wife, according to law enforcement sources not authorized to discuss the investigation. Drug paraphernalia was found at the scene, and the case is being investigated as a possible fentanyl overdose, the sources said.

“It‘s so sad for their families,” said Capt. Raul Jovel, who oversees the LAPD’s Central Division. “This is a societal issue.”

Jovel said that on some days the division investigates five overdose deaths, and last year officers seized 1,000 pounds of methamphetamine and 30 pounds of fentanyl.

It may take three to six months before the final causes of death are determined, the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner’s office said in an email.

The fatalities followed by just two days the deaths of four men at a Palmdale home in another suspected overdose case. Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department officials said their initial investigation indicated there was narcotic use at the home and neighbors said the residence was a regular spot for parties.

Vasquez was born in East Los Angeles and moved to the Mojave Desert when he was about 9 years old, according to an interview he gave to Flaunt magazine in 2018. He played guitar and formed his first punk band at 15, and later played in other punk bands. He found success with the Soft Moon, which his bio page on Spotify called an “unflinching mix of industrial and post-punk.”

The Soft Moon, which got its start while Vasquez was working in the Bay Area, released its first album in 2010. Vasquez was the creative force behind the project, which toured in Europe, the U.S. and elsewhere.

He told the music site that he wrote the albums by himself and then toured with the other members. He relocated to Venice, Italy, in 2013, and by 2018 was living in Berlin, according to Catherine Herrick, his publicist.

After Vasquez relocated to Joshua Tree, the group’s last album, “Exister,” was released in 2022. Times music columnist Suzy Esposito called Vasquez a “Cali post-punk torchbearer” who “faced his family traumas and alchemized the resulting pain” in the album. In the track “‘Become the Lies,’ Vasquez “tries to exorcise the memory of his absent father, whose spirit lingers doggedly behind him like a shadow,” she wrote.

Vasquez told an Estonian music magazine in April 2023 that he had moved back to Los Angeles, where he was living in a bedroom that he converted into a studio.

Mendez, 46, was a pioneer in L.A.’s underground techno music scene and co-founded two influential local record labels, Sandwell District and Jealous God, since the early 2000s, according to a Times profile published in 2018.

Last decade he toured big European venues and festivals between respites in Berlin or California. Feeling burned out, he returned to Los Angeles where he released “Shadows of Death and Desire,” a 2018 album that Times music writer August Brown called a “bold and emotional dispatch from the small hours of the L.A. underground. It’s savage in sound but often tender in tone and reckons with the toll that a life in club music can take on your spirit.”

Mendez recently released a new single but told Brown in 2018 that he was taking a break from the lifestyle of a full-time DJ.

“Something that isn’t talked about much in nightlife culture is how hard they push you,” Mendez said. “You’re running yourself ragged, the hours are ungodly. Our jobs are open bar with anything at your disposal. I don’t have heavy anxiety, but sometimes you just don’t feel like doing it, and you get into this headspace where you have to fake it to not bum people out.”

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