Saturday, March 14, 2009
Rico Daniels is a British TV presenter living in France who is known for his two television series — The Salvager — whilst he still lived in the UK and then Le Salvager after he moved to France. Rico has been in a variety of jobs but his passion is now his profession – he turns unwanted ‘junk’ into unusual pieces of furniture. Rico’s creations and the methods used to fabricate them are the subject of the Salvager shows.
Rico spoke to Wikinews in January about his inspiration and early life, future plans, other hobbies and more. Read on for the full exclusive interview, published for the first time:
Wikinews How was it you first came to be interested in salvaging?
I grew up in Basildon New Town very close to the enormous spoil heap that later became the green hills of Gloucester Park. There was all sorts of stuff dumped by developers and local businesses that was pure treasure trove to all the London kids that had moved down there. I suppose I was actively seeking play material from as young as 5 I suppose. My dad had big plans for me and tended to buy me “educational” stuff for Xmas. Things like encyclopaedias, microscope, chemistry set. That sort of stuff. Great for the brain but not what you’d call a toy. I ended up playing with my dad’s tools and using whatever I could drag off the spoil heap as material.
WN What makes ‘good’ rubbish, and how do you tell it apart from other junk?
I dont look at junk as junk. To me its raw material like any other but with added benefits. I like to preserve the patina of age and sometimes decay where it brings an interesting element to a build. Faded paintwork and oxidised metal are dripping with history and add shedloads of character to anything they’re included in. Materials obviously have to be sound and usable otherwise you’d just be using crap to make more crap.
WN What differences are there between salvaging in your home of France and back here in Britain, and what simply doesn’t change when you cross the border?
The advantages of France as a source of build material is that there are so many more opportunities to chance on stuff that may be 2 or even 3 centuries old. Hand made hinges and latches, ancient oak boards etc. My favourite hunting places are the ashes of old farmers fires . I pull out astonishingly interesting bits of hand forged ironwork. The thing that stays constant from one country to the other is that people can have amazingly good stuff but see little or no value in it leaving the field wide open for anyone that has a little vision.
WN You say on your website that you are working on an idea for a new show. Can you tell us a bit more about that?
Theres not much I can say about doing a new show apart from the fact that whatever I did I would insist on retaining my integrity. My shows have all been optimistic and upbeat which I would have thought the essential ingredients of any TV to take us through a recession. Don’t think I could do the nasty vote -the -others off type show. I certainly wouldn’t be happy adhering to the clicheed scripts so many celebs seem happy to stick to and you will never see Rico Daniels wearing a frock on the Paul O Grady show. Seems a step too low for a bit of cash.
WN When you go out looking for materials, presumably you never know what you’re going to find. When you look at what’s available, how do you come up with a vision of what you’re going to make from it?
The best work I do grows over time. I have hundreds of galvanised boxes full of “components”. I like assembling the elements of a build to be like a piece of art. TV demands a faster pace than I normally like which was fun though at some point I would like people to see what can really be created with a bit of care and careful planning.
WN You are also into a bit of axe throwing, I understand. Do you ever do this competitively?
My axe throwing which has been more implied than seen was something that I started doing at “western” camps in Germany. It was organised as a competition there hitting a range of targets on marked posts. I use it now as a way of letting off steam. I also throw circular saw blades usually at a target I call WMD Tony. Chills you right out.
WN As you rightly mentioned when you announced your new show concept, it is very hard to get a hold of money these days in any sizable amount – people are holding on to it. What effect has this got on salvaging – will it encourage it as people look for alternatives, or will the supply of cheap materials be decreased?
I have always found an increase in the amount of stuff available in a recession. A lot more people turn to DIY, ripping out salvageable stuff that a man such as myself could use. I have seen tons of good gear as Ive been going round London over the last fortnight. It broke my heart to leave it in the skips.
WN Between writing for Brit Chopper magazine and customizing your jeep, you clearly enjoy the open road. What do you look for in a vehicle? Given the chance to have any one ride you wanted, what would you be driving?
As far as vehicles, go, the Jeep Wrangler presses all the right buttons for me. It is totally suited to the area I live and though an accursed 4×4 I plan my trips carefully to do as many things on a single journey as possible. I would lay money that I create less CO2 than a lot of eco drivers in “green” vehicles and what I do create I hope is being absorbed by the huge number of maturing trees I planted on my own land. I would like to build a trike for France though the French law is difficult in respect of a custom vehicle. Hopefully there will be a way through the red tape and I can get one under way. I also have an emergency 250 in the barn that so aint as harley I ain’t gonna dignify it with a description.