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Squawk Of The Devil

31 October 1998
Copyright (c) 1998 Bell & Howell Information and Learning Company.

She must have made a pact with the Devil, right? BILLIE faces The maker hit squad - because she wants to. . .

Ilue Piper is not a hairdresser, despite the name. She is, at 16, the nation's hottest pop property- Number One with her two first singles. She is sitting in a chic restaurant in West London, just being. She grins with the charm of a schoolboy on acid. She is so Billie she's spilling out onto the seats. Her feet explode out of large plastic shoes; the welts cast from a thousand photo sessions (all that standing up) quite plain to see.

And yet, she is not Billie. She is a blank canvas on which thousands of toddlers can paint their dreams. She has neither cartoon gawky-pop looks that distinguish the like of the Spice Girls, or a bit of style like All Saints. As did Tiffany, Debbie Gibson and early Kylie, Billie looks like an ordinary girl. Who just happens to be sitting in an expensive restaurant. So, she must bea bit evil, right? ff she's so self-possessed and yet so perfectly ordinary. She's a pop star at the age most of us are getting people to go into Booze-U-Like for us. There is a spark of menace behind those hazel eyes. Surely a pact has been made with Mr B L Zebub. . . ?

'I always wanted to be famous," she gurgles, matter-of-factly. "I helped a friend who had a Saturday job in a hairdressers, and I hated every minute of it I was so bored. I'm greedy for success."

Billie comes from Swindon, but moved to Southwest London- away from her parents! - at 13, just so she could go to stage school. She stayed with her mum's aunt and uncle. She enrolled at the Sylvia Young Theatre School, that Baby Spice and three of the All Saints went to. Hmm.

Billie's idol was Madonna when she was growing up. She was about three when Madonna was massive, but she remembers watching her films and skipping round her house with lipstick on and a fake mole on her upper lip. Bill says she was "an emotional child". "I think I was a bit dramatic," is her reasoning, "It I wasn't a brat." The Sylvia Young School was full of "ambitious" kids. Kids From Fame types leapfrogging over cabinets? "There was quite a lot of bitching," she sighs. "But I loved it there. There was a lot of competition, but that was the fun of it "

Eurgh. Billie takes a sip of her creamy potato soup and grimaces. At fhe soup, not at her school. School was good, she got herself a few adverts-one for Kool Aid in the States -then she bagged a pop magazine's telly ads last year. "I had an instinct that I was going to do something good afterwards. It was a big job."

Innocent Records saw the adverts and asked her to record a demo. She did an R Kelly song, they loved it, and she signed on the dotted line. Last Easter, she left school, and in June "Because We Want To" was released.. and went to Number One. And thus Something Bigger Than All Of Us deemed that she attain her dream and become a pop star. But it's not the fame and the money for Bill, it's the performing and singing, man.

"I find some things can get a bit tedious and firing," she says, brightly. "Fourteen interviews a day is not what it's about. I want to be onstage all the time, telly all the time." Billie currently lives in a hotel, which makes her "go insane. I sleep, eat, do my schoolwork and dress in the same room!!" IPs not difficult to see the girl cracking up. She's not as steely as Kyle, not as street-wise as All Saints. And being solo, it's not like she has any band-mates to complain to. Billie Piper is a little squirrel trying to cross the dual-carriageway of life. While wearing combat trousers.

"I always feel intimidated by pop stars," she says of her contemporaries. "But they're all really nice. I haven't met anyone that nasty."

And she's even been in the same room as Peter Andre.

Billie has not had a past which the tabloids can bring up. She's 16, always sung, always danced. She's never been a man and has never sucked drugs off a llama. But lo! There is a rumour about Billie!! A scandal!! One story details how Billie couldn't be found when she was recording her album, and eventually was located in the Jacuzzi with a bottle of Bacardi. "What??? I don't know about that," she puzzles. "There was a Jacuzzi, but I never went in it because it was freezing cold. I had two glasses of champagne, the first time I was Number One, and that became that I'm an alcoholic at 15 in the papers. When I go to my hotel each night I have beans on toast."

So she's not an evil rum whore, then. What she is responsible for, however is recording a song that justifies any behaviour, from killing your parents, to smoking crack and bombing teachers. Billie can do all these things, "because she wants to, because she wants to."

"God, I never looked at it like that, that's a scary thoughL That's not the impression I tried to give, it's directed at kids and stuff. The idea was about being rebellious, but in a positive way. It's not about parents or taking drugs or anything." Billie is not worried about people thinking she is the devil for recording the most annoying song of 1998, either.

"It's contagious, the song," she says, keenly.

Although people might be annoyed, they would remember it as the most annoying song. I don"t care if they don't like iL That's fine." Or for hating her homework. Three hours of it a day.

It's a headache!" she flails."l know i don't want to be an accountant. I will always want to be a performer. I don't need equations and algebra to help me perform on stage. Percentages are good if you're going to a sale though."

SHE doesn't hate B*Witched, even though you'd think that because B*Witched are four Irish Billies who dance a little more Celtic-ly, she'd want to murder them (because she warnsto, because she wants to). And she quite plainly states that she is not actually evil at all, she's just doing what she wants to (etc). She's only been evil once.

"My friend's cat had had some kittens, this is when I was little, and I went round to her house," she squeaks. "She showed me this thing, of getting a kitten and throwing it to the ground, and she got me to do it. I only did it once... but I suppose that was a bit evil, wasn't it? I've never done anything else like that."

There's a great snobbery about performance, entertainment, and lack of academic ambition. There is nothing wrong with being famous - it is a highly rational thing to want to be. The money's good, you getto choose a life partner from many who aren't pig-ugly or short of a few bob themselves, it breeds confidence and is good for the British economy. And, for the time being, she doesnt care what other people think. She's never dressed up as a witch as such and only "a vampire or the devil" on a family Hallowe'en party. A witch is not good enough for our Billie. Celebrate the devil's new stepdaughter. You know you want to, you know you want to.

'Girlfriend' is out now on Innocent