Voronezh resident Vladimir Kolesnikov, an old-time rocker and seven-time car audio champion of Russia, looks much younger than his age of 68 and dresses with the full scope of youthful maximalism. He makes the jewelry for his clothes - all kinds of rivets and stripes - himself. Some mistake the man for a biker, but his “iron horse” is a beautiful car pumped with a modern audio system.
To find out how Vladimir Kolesnikov’s life turned out and how he differs from his peers now, read the RIA Voronezh story.
The master of sound
Thin, fit, in trendy youth clothes, Vladimir Kolesnikov walked down the steps of his porch with a cheerful gait. Earrings in his ears, tattoos, stylish black-and-red combinations in clothes - not a man but a hurricane.
The walls of the apartment of the eccentric Voronezh resident are decorated with rock music icons - The Rolling Stones, AC/DC, Queen, Scorpions, Kiss, Metallica, and there is a speaker system skillfully disguised as furniture throughout his entire apartment. With a click of the remote control, the living room is filled with surround and loud sound - it is as though the room is about to fly up into the sky like Dorothy’s house taken up by a cyclone.
As the country's champion in car audio, Vladimir Kolesnikov knows everything about what the sound from the speakers must be like. Car audio competitions are a technical sport that originated in the USA in the late 1970s. In Europe and Central Russia, including Voronezh, the competitions are organized by EMMA. The winner is the one whose speaker system provides the loudest and the highest quality sound - without noise and distortion, as close as possible to the original performance.
Before getting engaged in this unusual sport, Vladimir was manufacturing powerful speakers for his music-loving friends:
“I confess, I used to “entertain” my neighbors with loud music, the police constantly paid me visits upon their complaints. That’s why I decided to listen to loud music in the garage, and for this, I had to switch to car audio.”
Vladimir Kolesnikov first took part in a sports competition in 2006 with his VAZ-2108 car. This was an intermediate stage of the competition which took place in Voronezh.
“Unexpectedly, I took second place. Since then, I became addicted. After that, I went to competitions throughout Russia but did not take any winning places. But as soon as I switched to a new quality level of electronics and picked other equipment, I began collecting cups. I got a sporting interest,” the champion smiled.
In the rocker's living room, there are over 50 champion cups for winning places:
“I used to win five or seven cups a year. I’m probably just lucky with the cars - they are all champions...”
Before a competition, Vladimir equips his current tuned car with a powerful system of speakers and amplifiers. The speakers are hidden in the doors, the rear seats are retracted with subwoofers installed instead.
“In 2011, I installed 26 speakers in the car interior for the sound plus eight subwoofers. My car hit the cover of Avtozvuk magazine,” Vladimir Kolesnikov boasted.
The rocker’s stylish car is decorated with black and red stripes. On its hood, there is a “Rock forеver” inscription and on the radiator grille, there is an uppercase letter “R” instead of the Hyundai emblem the font of which was borrowed from British heavy metallers Iron Maiden.
On the back of the car flaunts the motto: “Let's hit the off-road with car audio!” The infernal license plates give the rocker’s car a special chic.
In order not to deafen, some athletes wear headphones at competitions, but more often they neglect safety. Sound quality is evaluated by certified judges. The volume is measured using a special sensor mounted on the car’s glass. It transmits a signal to a huge monitor in the arena - frequencies and decibels are reflected on it.
“In addition to the sound quality, judges evaluate the cleanliness of the car interior and engine compartment. If yours is dirty, they take points off. This is why before the competition, we wash the cars so that they are as good as new,” Vladimir Kolesnikov explained.
Sometimes car audio competitions last for two days. An athlete has no right to leave the site. The trunk, the hood, the doors should be open for demonstration. If a car is closed at the demonstration, the judge takes off a few points.
Car audio competitions are a costly sport. The Voronezh athlete changes the audio system in his car every year. Its cost depends on the components, power, and performance. The audio system that Vladimir Kolesnikov sets up to participate in competitions costs around 300-400 thousand rubles.
“One of my friends bought a car for 800 thousand rubles and invested another 2.5 million rubles in it. But he advertises his installation studio known throughout Russia. The turnover there is tens and hundreds of millions,” said the rocker.
Vladimir Kolesnikov disassembles and sells the audio system, which has already participated in the competition, in parts. He loses money on this, but he acquires new components at the expense of this. All in all, such a sport does not bring benefits, just pleasure.
“Why do I need to change the system? Every year, competition participants demonstrate more advanced systems. Therefore, if you want to be a winner, you just can’t stay in one place. I’ve performed with the same system for two years, but in 2019, I got “stepped on my heels” - as a result, I won not the first but the second place,” the Voronezh resident added.
Competition stage in 2011. The roof of the Pulkovo shopping center in St. PetersburgPhoto - from Vladimir Kolesnikov’s archive
Car audio champions are not given money - only prizes, the cost of which depends on the sponsors. It is mostly an inexpensive car audio equipment.
“I once became a champion in two categories in the finals. For the title of champion in SPC (sound pressure competitions, where the athlete’s task is to produce the maximum sound from a car - RIA Voronezh), I was awarded 1 thousand ruble speakers, and for the title of champion in art graphics - a package with a baseball cap,” Vladimir recalled.
The participation in competitions is paid. And the participants also need to spend money on gas, food, and a hotel.
“A couple of years ago, my spendings for the finals in Rostov turned out to be 12 thousand rubles, in Tver - 10 thousand: I spent the night in a cheap hostel,” said the athlete.
In the sports career of the Voronezh athlete, there have been many funny cases. In the summer of 2010 at the competitions in Volgograd, where he took the first two champion cups, it was hot - +40 °C degrees in the shade. To create sound pressure, Vladimir used a three-liter carbon dioxide fire extinguisher. As soon as carbon dioxide was blown into the subwoofer box, the temperature in it dropped. Inside, snow formed, flakes of which sprinkled from the speakers. That time, Vladimir showed the best result. And one time, his speaker didn’t manage the sound load and died right at the competition.
In 2010, the Voronezh resident won the Ukrainian car audio championship. But as a citizen of another country, he wasn’t given the champion title.
Vladimir does not turn on the subwoofers in his car in the streets - according to him, athletes have a code: loud music can be turned on only during competitions, in strictly designated places.
The radio hooligan
Car audio competitions for Vladimir are a continuation of his passion for radio technology, which he has carried through all his life. In the seventh grade, he, a 15-year-old, like other boys, illegally went on the air with the help of a self-made transmitter (the "barrel organ") and played forbidden music recorded from Western radio stations.
Radio hooligans violated the amateur radio regulations and interfered with public services. Pranks on the air were criminally punishable. Violators were caught, radio equipment was confiscated.
“A car with a radio sighting device drove through the streets - a station that tracked the location of the radio transmitter, right down to the street and the house. But they didn’t catch me,” said Vladimir Kolesnikov.
His childhood took place in Lviv. His father was a military man. Vladimir’s parents kept a firm hand on him:
“Even when I was in the ninth grade, I was forbidden to wear pointed shoes, wear flared trousers, and grow long hair. I had to come home no later than 22:00. All my classmates laughed at me - I was like an outcast.
The young man came to Voronezh after graduation. He entered the Polytechnic Institute and finally felt freedom. The pock-and-roll youth began. In the dormitory, Vladimir led the cultural sector - he was responsible for the dances. The music program had to be approved in advance. The dormitory head listened to it in the "red corner club" (a recreation and reading room in educational institutions in the USSR – RIA Voronezh) of the dormitory.
“The program was supposed to consist mostly of the songs of venerable masters - Yury Antonov, Pesnyary. Not even the democratic Vesyolye Rebyata (Jolly Fellows) and Poyushchie Gitary (Singing Guitars) were welcomed. We approved the program with one list of songs, and on the dance floor, when the dormitory head left, we turned on Deep Purple,” Vladimir Kolesnikov confessed.
At the dormitory, Vladimir then rained jokes that at the time were just becoming trendy about a schoolboy, the antihero Vovochka, and was a people person. This is how Kolesnikov got a student nickname - Vovochka.
“On weekends, I went to the guys on the fifth floor with huge homemade speakers, turned on a microphone and broadcasted to the whole area: “And now the music program in Beryozovaya Roshcha (the Birch Grove, a Voronezh district – RIA Voronezh)!” But this did not last long: soon black Volga cars with KGB officers drove up to the dormitory. We hid the speakers under the bed, closed the room and ran away,” added Vladimir Kolesnikov.
After graduating from the institute, Kolesnikov began working as an engineer at the Lenin Plant, later he got a job as an electrician in Liftremont - its employees were given a rent-free apartment for three to four years. Here, the young technician, possessed with a passion for microcircuits, wrote an efficiency proposal for saving electricity and safety.
Even then, Vladimir had an extravagant appearance, for which he received reprimands at work:
“At one time, I rose to the position of the head of the mechanisms lifting site. I had a beard, tanks, and a mustache. My old fashioned boss issued an unspoken decree: all engineering employees had to shave their beards and mustaches. But the women, my colleagues, begged him into making an exception for me.”
Vladimir in 1979Photo - from Vladimir Kolesnikov’s archive
Since the late 1970s, Vladimir became a black marketeer - he traveled to Moscow and brought branded jeans, platform shoes, records with Western music, imported tape recorders, and western catalogs with clothes under the radar.
“It used to be that the dream of all young people was jeans. Everyone dreamed of dressing fashionably - jeans, a denim jacket, platform shoes. But there was nowhere to buy them. You had to know people who would advise a black marketeer. Jeans cost 200 rubles and more. Another fashionable attribute was a plastic bag with a foreign inscription, which cost 10 rubles given a 70 ruble salary. You walk along Revolution Avenue in jeans, with a plastic bag - and you are number one,” Vladimir Kolesnikov told.
In 1978, the rocker bought his American cherry colored 4 cm high platform shoes with a heel 8 cm from a friend. He had to pay not only with money but also with a lot of his favorite records.
At the very same time, Vovochka became famous as a craftsman - he skillfully sewed torn jeans, made rivets and patches on clothes and shoes, sewed wedges into flared jeans. Every weekend, he went to Moscow for fashionable clothes, where he had his own circle of acquaintances.
At that time, reel tape recorders were in frenzied demand. A tape recorder in those times cost a lot of money - up to 8 thousand rubles or even more. In 1982, Kolesnikov, who bought an Akai tape recorder, aroused KGB’s interest: during interrogation, the authorities asked where the young engineer with a salary of 180 rubles got the money to buy a Japanese tape recorder for 5 thousand rubles. And in 1985, in Sevastopol, the sharp dresser had to explain himself to the KGB about a bold T-shirt with an American eagle and a stylish slimline shirt.
“The expensive equipment itself said that you had a connection with foreigners or foreign exchange stores. It was the neighbors that wrote reports to the authorities about me - they saw that a lot of people came to visit me. In addition, they heard a TV working at my place after 0:00. There was no broadcast at this time - it was easy to conclude that we were watching films on a VCR,” Vladimir Kolesnikov explained.
In the 1980s, many of his acquaintance black marketeers in Moscow and two in Voronezh ended up in prison for speculation.
“They threatened me with landing in prison for two years. The KGB was short of one report on me - imprisonment came after three of them. In addition, things were heading toward perestroika, and soon the authorities had other things to worry about than us...”
A hipster and a healthy lifestyle adherent
In the late 1980s, the man began working as an elevator operator in a hotel for the Finns who built the Videophone Plant. Now, this is a high riser at 3 Ostuzheva Street. It was not easy to get a job in a hotel for foreigners.
“The daughters and wives of the chiefs of the police department worked on duty there. The senior administrator was the deputy chief of the Voronezh police. I was hired as an elevator operator because I had the experience. I could do everything with my hands, I did welding,” said Vladimir Kolesnikov.
It was then that the rocker had an earring in his ear. Work colleagues helped to pierce it with an awl. In 1995, the rocker also had nose piercing.
Retired, Vladimir Kolesnikov works as a security guard in one of the Voronezh hospitals. The man has a son, he is 41 years old. Vladimir divorced his wife but retained friendly relations with her.
In 2019, the rocker was hospitalized, after which he decided to start taking care of his health: he went on a diet, refused sugar, alcohol, and cigarettes. Since then, every day, without leaving the apartment, he does exercises with fitness equipment - an ellipsoid. Thanks to the diet and an active lifestyle, he managed to lose about 20 kg.
The Voronezh man has not parted with the sewing machine so far. He transforms simple and impersonal things beyond recognition.
“If a thing came off the assembly line, it is no different from the others. But I love it to be stylish and fashionable,” the rocker noted.
Despite self-isolation, Vladimir Kolesnikov does not allow himself to relax - every day is scheduled by the minute. He collects his favorite tech equipment and thinks about how else to tune his car to the competition.
“I don’t understand my peers who drink beer and watch TV instead of finding something to their liking. I don’t have free time,” Kolesnikov admitted.