Pjotr. Polina Soyref, portrait photographer

Pjotr, 34, sound engineer

interviewed on 19 May 2020

In the middle of March, we were sent working at home. I have two kids; one is almost three years old, the second one is five months old. In the office, I could focus on my work, finish in time and leave, but at home, I just can’t avoid getting involved in what’s happening around me — I got to change the diaper, tuck them in, so I always have a feeling I’m not fully doing my job. But it’s not something negative; it’s just difficult. So I had to work at night when everyone is asleep, and I scheduled sending my emails so they would arrive at 8 am and not during the night.

In the company where I work, we have a lot of analysts; they immediately reduced all projections for production and demand for autumn and winter by 20-30 percent. That’s a lot for such a company, this has never happened before, even back in 2007 when there was a crisis.

The musical part was canceled completely, all the planned concerts too. A lot of my income comes from these concerts, and it’s fun too: I’m a sound engineer; I also have two bands, in which I’m a drummer and a guitarist. There once was an interesting event — we had guys from Iceland play black metal. Once they arrived, the organizer of the concert began live streaming them. Basically, we threw it all together in one day: I was  responsible for the audio quality, others for the video; we invited about ten people, so the band would feel more comfortable. We did the live stream, and we were shocked for a week after that: the band isn’t all that popular, maybe only in its genre, and here we have everyone at home, so the real-life offline experience is lacking; the organizer then called promoters from all around the world. We were expecting to see 150-200 viewers, we got fifteen hundred and a bunch of comments like: “I’m sitting at home, getting my favorite beer, since I don’t have to stay in queue to get a beer, ” “This is the first time I can watch a black metal concert with my cat, ” and I’m reading these comments and feeling this sense of unity.

That kind of stream happened only once, then the borders got closed, and local bands were not very enthusiastic; we offered the same conditions, just come and play, but nobody came. We then tried doing something on our own; it turned out so-so, we maybe got about 100 viewers.

And now — fast forward two months later — I’m going to Noblessner, they have a techno club there, a big old concrete warehouse, some guys got a budget from an international streaming platform, we’re finishing the stage right now, yesterday we were hanging up an LED light bar. There’s going to be four broadcasts, a huge budget, super cool.

Anyway, streaming is very interesting; we’ve never done it before. Quite a synergy: video and audio. It’s different from real life, where the room is full, you can feel the sound in your whole body. But here on video, the viewer must feel the energy and drive, and the way it’s produced and presented is crucial. I think I’ll find this new hobby of mine quite interesting in the future.

I’ve been doing a lot of audio recording. I used to work on recording for my own stuff, but now I have seven projects which I have to mix. People visit and write to me or just send me the material for mixing. Turns out, working on concerts has been replaced by working on records.

My friends, who are also musicians, expected to make so much music in these two months, but no one made anything; everyone got lazy, spread out on their couches, especially those who don’t have kids.

I wasn’t really afraid, but I did initially keep my distance at the stores. I think we don’t have to fear the virus in our age; I was more worried about my parents: they’re elderly, you wouldn’t notice the virus yourself, but you’ll bring it to your parents.

I missed going to cafes. My wife is a cook, so we’re not big fans of restaurants, but there were two-three places with Asian cuisine where we liked to eat. Everything is gradually opening again; when we came there, it was nice to see they remembered us and asked: “the usual?”

I was talking with my friends a lot less frequently; we’d meet in groups of two to just chat and drink beer. I started cycling a lot, on my wife’s bike that has a basket. I was once cycling at 3 am, with my headphones on, in a relaxed mood. And I was going by a police car, and the police officer asked me: “why are you out so late at night on a women’s bike?” After that, cycling became trickier; I was preoccupied with the thought that this bike is a women’s bike: it never occurred to me before.

My wife and I always travel a lot, but since borders were closed, we began to explore Estonia. It was awesome: I finished working, opened up the map, we chose a place, got in the car, and drove there. Up to a hundred kilometers, to some places you can’t just simply visit, like a small peninsula. We discovered a lot of interesting things for ourselves.

Now my wife is having a hard time because I used to have a job and then concerts, it’s such a given, now she’s used to me being by her side, but I started working on records, I’m not home in the evening, and she’s sad because of that. Our parents don’t visit us to help all that much, and having two children is tough. I’m saying that as a father, I can’t imagine how she, as a mother, feels. Honestly, I began to understand why the role of a mother is so difficult. I’ve seen it happen every day, so tedious.

“Tell me your story”