Ryan Quinlivan surfing a wave at Manu Bay in Raglan

Welcome to RQ PRODUCT

It may seem an odd occurrence to have one website for various products that may seem distinct. So why did Ryan Quinlivan, of RQ PRODUCT, decide to bring photography, music, graphic design, and a clothing range into one space? Katey Thom, camp leader of Ryan’s support crew, explores the reasons why in this welcome to RQ Product blog.

In particular, we take a look at the ever-developing influences and passion lying behind RQ PRODUCT. Then we focus on exploring the organic quality of Ryan’s creations. What do we mean when we talk about ‘organic’ photography, music, and graphic design?  To answer this question, we take a look at living examples of Ryan’s intrinsic connection to land, ocean, and wildlife and shapes all you see on RQPRODUCT.com.

Where did it all begin?

Many of Ryan’s influences stem from his childhood where he was intrigued by the artwork and music of his parents. His father is also a graphic designer and Ryan would often admire his hand-drawn graphic artwork and airbrush work for clients.

With music always around during his childhood, Ryan also marvelled at the art displayed on vinyl records that his parents owned. For example, Roger Dean’s artwork.

Artwork of Roger Dean in his book Views featuring a
‘Paladin’ in the Views (1972), by Roger Dean.

Tracks by Jean-Michel Jarre, Pink Floyd and Ghanaian Afrobeat band Osibisa were often playing in his home. These artists continued to leave an impression on Ryan as he got into music production in adulthood. Ryan talked about these and other early influences in a recent interview with Freshkicks:

The first music I remember falling in love with was the electro stuff that came with the breakdancing craze and some tracks from that era still give me flashbacks, stuff like ‘Rockit’ and ‘Jam on It’… I was captivated by the futuristic feel and loved the sound of drum machines

Ryan’s interview with Keiran Devlin for DJMag, 2019.

But it was not until high school that Ryan took his art, in particular, to a more serious level. Faced with failing at his senior year at high school, Ryan had to think beyond his daily obsession with surfing. He needed to think about what he could do for a job! At the time Hagley High, an alternative school in Christchurch, offered access to well-renowned artists as teachers. His time at this school sparked a beginning passion for photography and graphic design.

Surfing interjections

Ryan Quinlivan surfing a wave at Manu Bay in Raglan
Ryan Quinlivan surfing at Manu Bay (2019), taken by C Level Photography.

Things remained on hold, for a while at least, as surfing took over Ryan’s life. For a few years, he spent every-day surfing, not creating, or working… as I am sure his parents are still painfully aware.

I have a love of the history of the sport and a deep interest in the design and evolution of the surfboard. I have a reasonable collection of vintage/retro boards … and will probably add to in the future given the chance. There is something about surfing that is highly addictive, the combination of peacefulness and adrenaline is unique, and I am at my happiest sitting out the back on a glassy evening waiting for a wave to come.

Ryan’s interview with Matt Clough for Urban Essence.

Raves, making music and designing  

Zoom forward to the 90s, and the Christchurch rave scene is going strong. This era catapulted the beginnings of Ryan’s life DJing, promoting, making music and designing graphics. Ryan starting out making cheap, uninspired drum & bass knockoffs of artists like Peshay and High Contrast. One day, he stopped and stripped everything away. Starting again, he let his organic sound evolve:

That was the real beginning of it all for me. I had always had an interest in experimental and ambient music, but that was not reflected in my music for some reason, so it was like a floodgate opening when I embraced that aspect of my background.

Ryan’s interview with Keiran Devlin for DJMag, 2019

During this time, Ryan also began to start making a living from graphic design. He mainly worked for commercial magazine companies creating advertising. A real synergy emerged, however, when he started making posters for local promoters. Eventually, Ryan became somewhat noticed for his design and he got some international clients.

Graphic design today

Ryan has been honoured to have collaborated with various international music labels. So far this has included Valve Recordings, Commercial Suicide, Samurai, Zoltar, Wheel & Deal and V Recordings. You can check out a portfolio of this work here and RQ PRODUCT welcome new collaborations. 

Having now designed some of the most iconic pieces of art for record labels, how does Ryan describe the way he works with clients?

Ryan describes the process simply. In fact, he says it can only one of three ways. 1. Follow the brief to the letter. 2. Follow the brief and bring in your ideas and style. 2. Ditch the brief completely and go on instinct.

All three will bear fruit as a good brief can be a joy to follow, but sometimes you do have to go off brief and think about what you are trying to portray and put in a serious bit of work to find the perfect look. As with music, you can noodle about for ages and maybe not get anywhere, but as soon as you strike upon the spark, the element that pulls your thoughts and ideas together… off you go. One thing I have learnt is to always try the random idea that pops into your head from seemingly nowhere, it can often hold the key to things.

Ryan’s interview with for Matt Clough Urban Essence, 2015.

And his clients seem to enjoy the approach Ryan takes to his graphic design. Geoff Wright, who has collaborated on projects with Ryan for over 10 years, once described the impact his graphic design has had on Samurai Music.

I can’t minimize his impact in any way; Ryan has created the look from the very beginning. He’s one of those great designers who, even if you’re idea is awful, he’ll just ignore you and come up with something a million times better. He puts so much thought into everything.

Geoff Wright interview with Dave Jenkins for UKF, 2019.

In sum, connecting his experience of making music and graphic design for clients has been a powerful way to help artists achieve the vision they have for with their music.

Finding the RQ sound 

Early experiences of music throughout childhood and 90s rave music were not the only influence that feature in RQ music.  The husky, often apocalyptic atmospherics also owe a debt to death metal and post-rock he listened to. Including key artists like Slint, Brutal Truth and Big Black.  All of these influences translated into the “fairly loose jazz idea” behind his feature album ‘Solid Ground‘, released by Blu Mar Ten Music.  

A major influence, however, was the context the music was produced. Having found a sense of safety and stability in Ruapuke, the impact of the context in which music is made finally crystallised for Ryan. And that is where the organic nature of RQ Product music becomes explicit. The connection to land, oceans as well as cities left, all shape his sound.

It is impossible not to influenced by the surroundings; we are on the slopes of a beautiful misty mountain (an extinct volcano), in a valley that runs down to a loud and vibrant ocean. So combine that with the physical and social isolation and a relatively new-found love of jazz and there you have it! You can hear the echoes of the cities I have lived faintly in the background, as without those places I wouldn’t be making D&B.

Ryan’s interview with Keiran Devlin for DJMag, 2019.
Vinyl and sleeve laid flat showing RQ Solid ground imagery.
Solid Ground by RQ, 2019.

RQ music has been described as having a raw edge to it. In that, it allows for natural sounds, like a vinyl crackle, that be heard. For Ryan, the removal of such qualities would mean discounting the organic sounds from original samples he uses in his production.

When you try to hide artefacts like that you lose so much more along with it, even the best crackle removal tools do too much to a sample and it seems very unnatural. I’ve always stood by the motto of ‘ideas over execution’, that if the content and intent are good enough the delivery shouldn’t matter… The amount of life in samples from vinyl is great… the signal chain from the original studio gear, mastering, pressing and then sitting about for decades, then on to my turntable, mixer, soundcard, DAW… you can’t fake that provenance and you certainly don’t want to hide it.

Ryan interview with Resonant Frequency, 2019.

The stripped-back, abstract features of RQ’s sound are qualities often admired by others as a welcome escape:

There are characteristics that run throughout much of RQ’s output, his use of space often most prominent. There is an emotional disconnect with his work, a displacement that relieves you from the usual confines of conformity. Sonic Ketamine.

Alexander Foy, author of interview with Ryan for Organic, 2016.

There is no doubt that this is where Ryan’s passion for Sci-fi and envisaging utopian worlds comes into the picture. Likewise to the feeling of reading or watching sci-fi, he can see how music also offers a world of escapism and common ground for people who enjoy it. 

RQ Product photography

So here in Raglan is where Ryan has stabilised his intrinsic connect to land, oceans, and wildlife in music. But this has also been that case for his photography. In fact, since moving to Ruapuke in Raglan, Ryan’s music production and photography have increased magnificently. Check out RQ Product music downloads, mixes and interviews, as well as photography to see evidence of the productivity!

Photo of Sunset over Ruapuke in Raglan where a large swell created it's own mist
Swell Smoke, Ruapuke, Raglan, New Zealand

In part, this is to do with reigniting his passion for surfing. Raglan offers some of the best surfing in the world. Ryan has been able to gather strength and mindfulness through regular connection with the oceans in-between creating artistic products.

Specifically, surfing interconnects strongly with Ryan’s organic photography that features here on RQ Product. His love of surfing has led to a long-term fascination with how water flows and how waves form. Often his photography captures the natural formations of water and the way light falls on waves was they move. Raglan provides the perfect paradise for such explorations. In particular, here in Ruapuke, Ryan is surrounded by an, often moody, extinct volcano, roaring ocean, and undulated valleys. Throughout the summer, we can witness magnificent sunsets that are reflected in these landscapes. In winter, rain, wind, and thunderstorms create a contrasting atmosphere to capture. On top of this, Ruapuke inhabits native flora that attracts amazing natural wildlife. Ryan is fascinated with how they live together and feed off the land. While watching, he aims to take a snapshot in time of their everyday lives for everyone to see.   

Welcome to the RQ PRODUCT concept

There is a synergy at play between Ryan’s music, photography and design, each interacting and influencing each other. That is where the concept of RQ PRODUCT naturally arose.

But what about this clothing range called OMNI?

Put simply, Ryan has had a long-standing dissatisfaction with clothing. He never finds what he wants to wear and often buys plain clothes. Since having Louis and Stella, he has also noticed that lack of variety for kids. Having wanted to create clothing that includes good design with images of the organic simplicity nature provides, he launched OMNI.

As with the logo and general look of RQ PRODUCT, the key element is simplicity and that little grainy edge of darkness.

Welcome to RQ Product