Real dilemmas, real solutions – from our real-life superheroes. This issue, leather designer Bill Amberg is murder on the dance floor and a murderer on a life raft.
Q What makes you feel wild?
A I really enjoy letting rip on the dance floor. I’m a very keen dancer and I go crazy at festivals and good parties. I like EDM (Electronic Dance Music), but will dance to anything that’s going.
Q What one thing are you currently doing to make the planet greener?
A I’m reducing the waste in the Amberg household. So no plastics, no food waste. I make all the old vegetables into omelettes or stock, and turn old bits of meat into stews. I’m like that in my workshop too – I keep all the scraps of wood, leather or old screws. I’m quite careful and organised in that respect. I’m a bit of a hoarder, but I store everything carefully.
Q Where does your soul most happily reside: city, countryside, or both?
A In Somerset. We have a lovely house there, it’s a real refuge. I have a really beautiful big workshop, a garage full of vintage motorbikes, which I like playing around with, and a garden I really enjoy. I was brought up in the countryside – I think if you’re used to it, you’re happy to potter around in it or walk across the fields.
Q The DJ fails to show up. What’s your go-to track to get everyone dancing?
A Depends on the age group. I have a couple of DJ sets that I do – I DJ at Glastonbury under the name of Soul Stew, and also at Port Eliot Festival. There’s a funk and soul set and an R&B jazz reggae set, but it depends on who the crowd is as to what I’ll go for – sometimes I’ll open with Darude’s Sandstorm, which is a classic dance tune if I’m going for something heavy or a soul track by James Brown.
Q Who is the hero or heroine you’d be tongue-tied to find yourself sitting next to at a dinner?
A Probably someone like Katharine Hepburn, who was so cool and such a strong, clever woman. And someone who is alive… well, Dr Lucio Mayer who discovered the ripples on the edge of the black hole. I heard him lecture once and it was advanced astrophysics. When he asked, “Does anyone have any questions?” I couldn’t even imagine how to articulate one. It was that incomprehensible and fascinating at the same time. I just love the idea of ripples on the edge of black holes.
Q The message to your younger self?
A Get on with it. It took me 30 years to get my act together.
Q Which world conflict would you like to see resolved first and how would you do it?
A I think general intolerance. That seems to be the cause of all conflicts – religious, racial, economic… I have a nasty suspicion it’s embedded in the human psyche and there’s not much I could do about it, but I hope not.
Q You’re on a raft adrift in the ocean and the sharks are circling. Who is your companion to get you to shore safely – and who would you feed to the sharks?
A I’d want my brother Tony to get me to shore safely. He is very calm and capable, and when the mist comes down on the top of the mountain he’ll say, “Don’t worry Bill, we’ll just go that way…” so I’m sure he’d be the one who could navigate from the stars and all that sort of thing. I don’t think I’d throw anyone off. I’d probably eat them instead. But they’d have to be quite juicy. So you’d have to eat them quite early on before they get too scrawny.
Q What do you look for in a deputy?
A They would have to better at everything than me. Then you know that things are getting done properly.
Q What’s the key requirement for a lifetime partner of the romantic kind?
A Funny. Kind. Generous. Sexy. Like my wife, Susie.
Q What’s the retirement plan?
A I’m not going to retire. I really, really, really love my job and I can see myself doing it for the rest of my life. Perhaps not quite as intensely.
Q What’s your favourite lazy-at-home dish to cook?
A I make a mean green lentil dish. Chorizo, onion, chilli, a little bit of stock and a good cupful of apple juice. You put as many herbs and spices as you like in with the onions and chorizo to get an interesting base and then add the lentils, allowing them to soften for a few minutes before you add the liquid. I make it without the chorizo for my daughter who is vegetarian.
Q Career advice for the Bill wannabes?
A I think there are two sides to what I do: the craft side and the design side. And I would say for the craft side you need to put the hours in. You really do need to make your techniques feel so much like second nature that you’re not struggling with technique ever. And on the design side, you need to learn to draw with a pencil and paper because it’s a dialogue, it’s fluid, and you don’t get this with a computer. Plus, from a practical point of view, if you can draw, it means that when you’re talking to someone across a table in a factory, whatever country you’re in you can communicate with them.
Q What do you wish you had said to someone who has departed this earth? And what do you wish they had said to you?
A I guess… I love you.
Q The last time you prayed, who did you pray to and were your prayers answered?
A Well, my daughter has had lots of troubles recently and I sent lots of messages up to God about that, and he has answered those prayers and so that’s good news.
Q Who do you currently have a crush on?
A My wife, Susie.
Q What would your Tinder profile say?
Q What superhero power would you most like to have and why?
A Wisdom because then you can do everything.
Q Where do you get your therapy from?
A I think friends, family. I would say I am fairly stable. I don’t seem to suffer from too much gloom or anxiety, which is a blessing, because I know people who do.
Q Your book at bedtime?
A Currently reading Limonov by Emmanuel Carrere, which I’m really enjoying. It’s a journalistic biography and novel about the Russian writer and dissident, who was a charismatic rogue. It’s very good.
Q Your epitaph?
A Thank you, it’s been great.
Q What did you learn from the toughest time in your life?
A To be kind.
Q And from the happiest?
A To laugh a lot.
Q You’re blowing out the candles on the birthday cake. What one thing do you wish for?
A Good health for my friends and family.