In his compelling but ultimately flawed new memoir, former Canadian music journalist Slava Pastuk – or “Slava P” as he was known by Vice Media – recounts his journey from music writer in hip, hip media to convicted drug dealer .
Born in kyiv, Ukraine, Pastuk grew up in Barrie, Ontario. and developed a passion for hip-hop and online videos by then-popular media group Vice. At the time, Vice specialized in guerrilla-style videos featuring journalists buying weapons in Liberia or trying mind-altering drugs in Brazil.
“I was obsessed with their raw style: each video immersed me in the action, making me feel like I was participating in something illegal,” he wrote.
At 19, he left a promising job in marketing to work for Noisey Canada, the music news division of Vice. It was his dream job and led him to a life of exclusive parties on the Toronto music scene.
Pastuk writes that drug use was encouraged by Vice. At his 20th anniversary party in Manhattan in 2014, he says the company gave employees $200 in cash as “money for coke.”
In reflection, he sees low pay and a company culture that encouraged “thrill-seeking and operating at the fringes of legality” as part of the reason for his downfall – the other being his own desire for a grim adventure.
Needing extra income, Vastuk began hosting a popular DJ party at a Toronto nightclub, taking advantage of the hip factor of working for Vice. His other business was selling weed through connections made on Grindr, a popular gay dating app.
In 2015, Vice expands and he finds himself with a much more reasonable salary. He thought he could leave the drug trade behind, but instead asked a friend to do it for him while he continued to cut himself.
That year he also found himself linked to a drug cartel and, “in the name of adventure”, agreed to help smuggle cocaine from Australia to Canada.
As he returned from his trip unscathed and $20,000 richer, it would soon all turn against him.
He started bragging about his adventure to everyone who listened and eventually recruited others to go on trips for the cartel as well. At the end of the year, a group of five couriers he recruited – dubbed the Oz Five – were arrested running the same errand as him.
Currently serving a nine-year sentence for his crimes, Pastuk was recently denied full parole for “narcissistic traits and a rather enlarged ego”, according to a report by the national post. It all makes sense after reading this dissertation.
While bad trips is an entertaining read that mixes elements of true crime and a behind-the-scenes look at new media, Pastuk’s smugness quickly becomes exhausting. It’s hard to love him or feel bad for him when he ends up paying for his crimes.
He also shows little remorse for his actions.
“Everyone made their decision for a selfish reason. I am sorry that their lives have changed by venturing down the path I have discovered, but I do not have a huge weight of guilt weighing on my soul,” he wrote.
bad trips was co-written by Brian Whitney, an American true-crime writer, who will also collect all royalties.
Alan MacKenzie is a writer from Winnipeg.