It can’t be — but it is — almost 20 years since I last interviewed Billie Piper. In 1998, the builder’s daughter from Swindon was not yet 16, fresh out of Sylvia Young Theatre School, and the youngest artist ever to debut at No 1. “Why you gotta play that song so loud? Because we want to!” as that first megahit, the one with the spaceship video, went.
What a year 1998 was for earwormy girl-power pop, with the Spice Girls, B*witched, Cleopatra et al. Piper was the most precocious and prettiest pop star of them all. The details of that interview are hazy — it was such a long time ago — but I still remember thinking how sweet, adorable and enthusiastic she was, and at the same time what a curse fame can be when you are a child. A year or so later, we bumped into each other on a flight to LA (in economy class), and a while after that, pictures of her teetering out of the pub with her new husband, Chris Evans, started appearing in the tabloids.
Scroll forward to now, and here the two of us are again, sitting in a booth at the swanky Colony Grill, in Mayfair. Wearing glitter on her fingernails (courtesy, apparently, of her two sons by ex-husband Laurence Fox), a red check jacket from the Kooples and biker boots, Piper, now 35, has hardly aged at all.