The new Deerhunter album, Halcyon Digest, was released this week and I seized the opportunity to purchase it at Avalanche during a quick trip to Edinburgh on Monday. The album as a whole is excellent and it will surely find a place near the top of my favourite records released this year. The artwork is intriguing, with the fold-out insert designed in the fashion of an underground newspaper or zine. All of the lyrics to the individual tracks are written on this insert with an additional bit before the eighth track, ‘Helicopter’. Before the lyrics this short article appears, reprinted in the album artwork with permission from Dennis Cooper:
Dima (real name Dimitry Marakov) was born in 1986 in the town of Nalchik, Russia. From a young age, he dreamed of working in the fashion industry as a designer. Lacking the moral or financial support of his parents, he actively sought out contacts within the industry through the internet. At the age of 14, he became acquainted with a successful fashion photographer in St. Petersburg who invited the boy to come live with him and work as his assistant. Dima accepted the offer and moved in with the photographer. According to friends of Dima, he became the older man’s lover for approximately the next year. He eventually grew dissatisfied with the lack of benefits he had been promised would result from the arrangement. He left the photographer to become live-in lovers with a wealthy man who provided the financial backing for a conglomerate of pornographic gay websites. It was at this point that Dimitry adopted the stage name Dima and, with the help of false documents that corrected his age to the legal 18, began a successful career modeling naked and starring in hardcore sex videos on the gay websites financed by his lover.
Between the age of 15 and 18, Dima was a highly sought after pornographic model and performer. He saved the money he made from modeling to pay for the tuition at a leading college of fashion that he hoped to attend when he reached 18. At a certain point, Dima began supplementing his income by renting himself out as an escort within his lover’s circle of associates and acquaintances. According to friends of Dima, they included several leading figures in the entertainment industry as well as one of the most powerful men in Russia’s world of organized crime. Dima began to express concern to his friends that the organized crime figure had become obsessed with him, but he refused to accept their advice to stop seeing the man because of the large amount of money these dates were earning him. Sometime in 2005, Dima abruptly left his lover, gave up his modeling career, cut off all communication with his friends, and moved in with the organized crime figure. The last public Dima sighting was late that year when his friend Ignat Lebedev, who was also working as a male escort at the time, accompanied a client to a private sex club where he claims to have witnessed a very thin and confused looking Dima being forcibly sodomized by a group of perhaps ten to fifteen men. Lebedev claims his client identified one of the men as the organized crime figure and dissuaded him from speaking to Dima for his own protection.
Lebedev claims he described what he’d seen to Dima’s former lover and was told Dima had been killed the previous week and that he shouldn’t speak of this again. Lebedev reported both incidents to the police, but after interviewing the lover and being told Lebedev had made the story up, they declined to investigate the matter. In 2006, Lebedev persuaded a prominent Russian gay journalist to write an article on Dima’s disappearance, but during the course of investigating the story, the writer was abducted by unknown assailants, beaten, and told he would be murdered if he wrote the story. Dima has not been seen or reliably heard from in three years, although in early 2007 another organized crime figure, Evgeny Ershova, who was awaiting trial on an unrelated murder charge, claimed that in late 2005 he witnessed a young male prostitute matching Dima’s description be pushed out of a helicopter over a remote forest in the north of Russia. Before Dima’s ex-lover died of lung cancer in late 2007, he reportedly confessed to friends that Dima was sold as a sex slave to a man in the Ukraine in late 2005 and had lived until late 2006 when he’d committed suicide.
The actual song—shared in the video below, which was released earlier this month—contains heartbreaking lyrics from the perspective of Dima. Principle songwriter Bradford Cox beautifully delivers these sorrowful words of exploitation, abuse, helplessness, isolation and loneliness, which prove to be all the more sobering when heard in light of the article above.
Dima’s story is incredibly heartbreaking, and while he lost his life at the hands of those who would oppress, Deerhunter reminds us of the unfathomable struggle faced by those around the world that presently experience the horror of human trafficking.
Thank you Deerhunter for speaking for those who have no voice and for doing so in such a creative and effective manner. May we all be challenged to do the same and to seek to protect all people.