Theories: Clarky & Sam Waller – The Central Library

[4 Aug 2017]

Intro/Questions: Lino Gonzalez

The Central Library is a U.K. based project by Andrew Clarke (Clarky) and Sam Waller which focuses on selling interesting BMX based zines and DVDs sourced from crews and individuals around the world. Both Clarky and Sam are life long riders with unique perspectives on BMX that are usually not presented in the current day of pay to play mainstream BMXmedia. I asked both of them some questions about The Central Library, media, and world events for the latest “Theories” interview…



-What was the inspiration for starting The Central Library and who is involved behind the scenes?

Sam: The seeds were sown on a cold winter’s night on the outskirts of Manchester. Me and Clarky are both absolute suckers for splashing cash on videos and stuff, and often buy the same things, so it made sense that if we were both getting stuff shipped across the planet, we may as well just get a few more and make it into more of a thing.

I’m not going to lie – we basically ripped off a skating website called Palomino that sells loads of sick zines and stuff. Pretty much everyone we ride with makes things, so a more bike-centric version didn’t seem that much of a wild idea.

Not sure about Clarko, but I suppose long-standing independent outlets like Drag City and Corwood Industries maybe also deserve a mention on the inspiration front too if I want to sound snooty. I think it’s good when people can get hold of interesting things relatively easily.

Behind the scenes it’s all pretty high tech. We’ve got a fleet of drones for delivery purposes and we have warehouses in most major cities for rapid-fire dispatch.

Clarky: Yeah, we basically ripped off Palomino. I was into what you (90 East) were doing with getting videos from the UK into America. Record shops from the 90’s played a big part for me, I remember small outlets selling mixtape packs of early rave, jungle and hip hop. They were always run by people who really loved the stuff.

We started it because both Sam and I were buying zines and DVDs a lot from abroad, not just riding stuff but all sorts of stuff. We’re both pretty obsessed about physical copies of things for some reason. Really it’s just us expanding our own collections and getting more copies at the same time to save import taxes and postage costs. We just thought if we buy 10 more of the same thing and sell/trade them to friends, and then it kind of snowballed into a website. I’m not sure how legal this shit is, but we’ll just keep on until we’re ratted out.

Sam is a good wordsmith so he generally does the website and interviews. I house all the products on two shelves of my Ikea bookcase and post out the orders on my dinner hour. So usually if your order is wrong or late it’s my fault. A real high tech operation.

-Is there a sort of theme or basic criteria for stuff that you guys carry?

Clarky: Not really, it’s just meant to be an outlet for like-minded underground stuff that doesn’t really get acknowledged too much all in one place. It’s good to get stuff in lane if you know what I mean? Seems a shame to have good stuff rubbing shoulders with goofy pizza seats or wacky weed print garbage.

Sam: No real criteria. Sickness is sickness whether it’s a photograph, a t-shirt or a tea-towel. ‘Sickness’ isn’t limited to just riding stuff.

I guess the riding stuff makes up the majority of what we stock, as there are plenty of other ‘normal’ zine shops around, but it’s good to have some other bits. Again… I’d be buying it for myself anyway – so we may as well get a couple more copies to gather dust on the shelf.

-Were are living in the supposed “post DVD” and the “print is dead” era, But that is your main product on CL. What do you make of people in the industry hyping up those two narratives?

Sam: It’s all pretty boring really. I’d rather hear funny stories or something than listen to people whinging about things.

If the old magazines want to stop printing and start some wacky, flash-in-the-pan Youtube channel instead, then that’s fine with me. There’s probably zero business sense in printing magazines and burning off DVDs today, but that’s why the ones that do come out these days are interesting… people are doing it because they want to – not because they’re being paid to by shady conglomerates or multinationals.

On a different subject, I’d like to say a big thank you to Kellogg’s, Swatch and Maoam for all their help with the site.

Clarky: I probably put too much value on video and print but it’s a way of keeping it going, I think it’s important. I’m not against web videos — I watch shit on the internet all the time. Soon it’ll be ‘the website is dead’ and some nerds like us will be running a webpage shunning whatever the next medium it is to present this shit.

If riding was first shown through cave drawings or sculpture, someone would be saying that’s how it all should be presented.

-I know people can be sensitive about stepping on others toes when selling product in regards to shops and distros. Did starting The Central Library cause any beef on that front?

Sam: Hahaha, who knows? Hopefully people are developed enough not to be too bothered about two goons from the North West with a few DVD-Rs. Nowhere in England sells this stuff anyway so presumably the beef is minimal.

Clarky: I don’t even know. The reason it happened was because this stuff wasn’t being catered for in the UK anyway. It’s a pretty small fry operation and poses no threat… yet.

Even if it did, I wouldn’t be bothered. I like a bit of beef, it keeps you on your toes.

-On the info page of the site, you mention that CL is run “ by people with full time jobs, so if something takes a few days to arrive, bear with us”. What do each of you guys do for a day job?

Clarky: I’m a fitter at a factory that makes machines for hospitals. It’s a bit like Homer’s job in the intro to The Simpsons. I have to wear a silly looking protective suit, gloves and a hairnet all day. Daily duties usually consist of trying to do as little as possible, playing cards with the two Romanian cleaners and mostly sitting around waiting for parts to fit to machines. It’s an easy number and I’m under no illusion that the bubble may burst.

Sam: By day I work for a men’s clothes shop. My job is a bit like Elaine’s in Seinfeld when she works for J. Peterman. I write stuff about functional lightweight cotton overshirts and that sort of thing.

The highlight of my job was when I answered the phone to none other than television’s Michael Barrymore. That probably won’t mean much to American readers, but he was a big deal in England before a young man was found dead in his swimming pool with various unsavoury wounds. All that aside, Michael seemed like a very nice guy.


Sam Waller via TheFancyIsland Instagram. Photo: Wozzy


-Employment and money seems to be a hot topic in BMX at the moment with the recent TIP plus fiasco where some of their riders had payment issues. Being that you have full time jobs, ride, and continue to contribute great art in the form of videos/riding, what is your take on a situation like that?

Sam: I’m not too sure what this Tip Plus fiasco is, but to be honest it’s completely mental that people get paid to ride in the first place. From my outsider standpoint, it seems that people believe their own hype and start thinking they’re owed something for doing varying rotating motions on a small bicycle. It’s all pretty insignificant in the scheme of things.

Half of these people don’t even make videos or take photos or anything… they’re just chauffeured around from city to city like little emperors hunting out Wi-Fi. I don’t even know where these guys are from or who they normally ride with as they’re just shown on dream-team fantasy football concept trips instead. Pretty funny really.

Saying that, I 100% think Jambul should be living a life of absolute luxury thanks to his dope, Muska-esque style. It seems crazy that he has to pay for his XXXL sportswear out of his own pocket. The same goes for sensuous mini-ramp king Gareth Hunt (although I’m not sure he’d wear a XXXXXL basketball jersey). Those guys are loads sicker than any flavour-of-the-week goon nose-manualing across the moon for some zappy sherbet dib-dab edit.

Clarky: I see this stuff like I’m watching a soap opera. I love being on the outside and hearing all these murky stories about shady companies and riders with a sense of entitlement. What do people expect? As soon as riding is your job you’re fucked. Grinding handrails isn’t a legit job, why try and treat it as that?

I don’t know why people want to turn the good bit of life into work. Riding is an escape from all that, it’s a luxury if anything. Like most employers they don’t give a fuck about their employees. It’s the same as a contract builder being ripped off by the firm he’s contracted to work for. That happens all the time in ‘real life’, just because its bike riding doesn’t make it any different. People get all wound up about it because they’ve loved that brand from being a kid etc etc. You got ripped off mate, no use whining on the internet, either take them to court or torch the warehouse.

-From your point of view, what seems to be some differences in the way the US and UK scenes present themselves in the media?

Clarky: I don’t know man, they seem pretty similar media-wise. Hopefully you don’t judge UK riding by what Ride UK puts on its website. All those major sites are the same on both sides of the Atlantic, they pretty much make a living out of lazily taking without consent, re-posting stuff without any words or real consideration.

There are definitely good, interesting things going on in both countries though. I like the small underground networks that have developed away from the slop that’s tried to infiltrate in recent years.

Sam: Maybe the fact that there’s less ‘mainstream media’ here means the scene looks better? Apart from a few whack outlets that shall remain nameless, people here are sort of left to do things for themselves. People work through the day, ride a bit at the weekend, and maybe make videos or zines or whatever if they have the time. It’s all pretty basic and detached.

Maybe the useless weather helps out too. It rains at least 678 days a year here, so there’s plenty of time to practice outdated darkroom photography techniques for niche zines or mess around in After-Effects.

We have worse teeth in England too, so any sort of self-promotion posery is generally out the window.

-Clarky and I have spoken through email about a few world Issues recently, namely Trump and Brexit. Both of those issues have seemingly divided up the people within the UK and US quite a bit. What is your guys’ view on each of those? Were you for or against Brexit, and how does Trump effect your view of the US from the outside?

Sam: I don’t know very much about politics so I can’t really say much. I’m oblivious to most news and only find things out by reading front covers of newspapers at the shop whilst I’m buying chocolate bars or a refreshing bottle of Heineken.

That said – most of Britain is pretty wild. People get swept up with slick coffee bars and fancy apartments, but beneath this glossy sheen there’s men walking around with half their heads missing and ten year old kids getting their fingers chopped off. There are a lot of places where people are really struggling for pretty basic things and are completely ignored. When you’re in a shit situation, you’re going to go for the new option. These people have probably been lied to, but I can understand why they voted the way they did.

Clarky: I voted to stay in the E.U. I like Europe. Any way to make this damp island a little more like Spain and I’m down. I try and stay away from newspapers and outside influences at the best of times and try to use my gut instinct. It just seems like a step backwards to me and it’s usually the most vulnerable in society that end up suffering in these situations.

I wasn’t surprised to hear that Trump got in. You’ve had the Bush family business running the gaff before, The Terminator was governor of Califor-ny-yay which I buzzed off. You’ll probably have John Wayne or Marge Simpson running the country in a few years.


Clarky via Euroskum Instagram. Photo: Sean Malone


-Any plans for a next volume of the Strangeways videos? If so who is going to be involved?

Clarky: Yeah, very slowly. No time limit or deadline, just as it happens. It’ll be the usual cast of toe-rags and loiterers.

Sam: Either that or Clarky has just been filming people for his personal DV tape stash? I think stuff would be the same either way.

-Are you into any conspiracy theories?

Clarky: Not really, I can’t be bothered with all that stuff. I mean, I know shady stuff goes on all over the place and given half the chance I’d abuse my position of power too. I’m not losing any sleep over whether or not someone went to the moon, we shouldn’t be messing around up there anyway.

Sam: I get that there’s probably loads of crazy stuff going on that’s hidden from the masses, but I can’t really be bothered to think about it. I’m too busy sitting around on benches to be slo-moing 911 footage or taking soil samples at the grassy knoll.

Unrelated to conspiracy theories, now seems like a good time to say thanks to people like Ed Rush, Thomas Vidal and Rahlin Rigsby. I’ve never met these people, but they’re always the first to order something and must have very expansive DVD collections.

A lot of people like to spout off and talk loudly about ‘independent BMX’ and ‘core values’ and all that nonsense, but these chaps I mentioned above and countless others from towns I’ve never heard off are the ones who really support this stuff.


Thanks Clarky and Sam