Herald investigation: Party-pill man 'Underground' lays low

By Patrick Gower

Chris Chase, the former male stripper and pioneering party pill maker who started London Underground, keeps a low profile just as the underground name suggests.

Staff and friends initially refused to reveal Chase's identity, telling the Weekend Herald he was "busy", "living in Fiji", "overseas", "in transit" and finally, somewhere with a phone, but with no computer or fax.

He refused to be interviewed about his company's human tests and the potentially illegal substance in his pills.

The company's front has an underground feel too, with the registered address of a "suite" on Takapuna's Byron Ave no more than a post box.

Its real headquarters appears to be in a nearby office building while its retail front is The Pill Bar shop on the main street.

Those named as organising the London Underground trials were a staffer called Stan or Pill Bar manager Voi-Marie, a model who calls herself "Poison".

The company's website proudly refers to its volunteers as "lab rats", but when approached this week Stan said the testing had stopped.

He knew Phillip - the trial participant the Weekend Herald spoke to - had suffered problems but would not say why the company had not responded to him and refused to supply the pills for independent testing, saying "there's none left".

Stan also said the "neuro blast" pills had been withdrawn from the sale - even though they were still available in city shops and on the internet.

The invitation to test the latest pills came from Voi-Marie's address, but she said "it was used by a number of people".

She said yesterday she had only had "positive feedback" about the trials, which she took part in herself.

The Weekend Herald spoke to other London Underground "lab rats" this week, who said they had no problems, although one, said the latest "non-BZP" pills left him "pretty much cowering in bed till they wore off".

The London Underground website describes its beginnings eight years ago in the "aptly-named" Auckland nightclub Sinners on Karangahape Rd, when Mr Chase met co-director Lee Vincent, then an IT consultant.

They began making BZP pills on a makeshift press, claimed to be some of the first party pills.

The brand developed after they bought a chemist called Dr Keith London on board.

The website describes how as the company grew they aimed to "hopefully not get arrested since no one knew what we were importing, not even us sometimes!"

They have tested legal boundaries before, with an energy drink called Ammo that had high levels of BZP, which was recalled by the Food Safety Authority in 2005.

The company now has a presence in the United Kingdom where there are also moves to ban BZP.

A report in the Guardian newspaper noted there was already a "BZP-free" range to stay ahead of the regulators, with the London Underground pills found to contain a compound previously only found in a Bulgarian cough suppressant.

Chase is now married to Raechelle, a woman he met while out using one of his early attempts at pills and they have two children.

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