Local musician's Trump-inspired band, '55 MAGAton, releases debut EP

Joel Oliphint
North Linden's Billy Cool launched a satirical one-man band, '55 MAGAton.

For the past dozen years, Columbus multi-instrumentalist Billy Cool has retreated to his North Linden basement studio to write and record songs about whatever strikes him. Often, his inspiration comes from two codependent muses: flatulence and feces.

“It’s all stupid shit. I’ve been writing poop songs for 10 years,” said Cool, whose musical resume includes songs such as “Space Farts” and “Never Ever Stop (Pooping).” “I love writing and recording songs … It’s not recreation; it’s a compulsion, frankly.”

Last fall, Cool took a detour from his regular songwriting outlet, Billy Cool and the Whips, and formed a new project, ’55 MAGAton, as a repository for some songs he was writing about President Donald Trump and the tropes around Make America Great Again culture. “I’ve always been a songwriter looking for a muse, and I’m legitimately interested in politics. I follow it probably too much,” Cool said. “It’s been a little stressful recently, so I turned [’55 MAGAton] into my outlet. The songs sort of wrote themselves, so I just kept going with it.”

Cool made a stop-motion animation video for Southern-rock send-up “God is a Gun” and an over-the-top green-screen video for “Trump Train,” which now has nearly 7,000 views. “I’ll take the Trump train down the highway/All aboard now, if you’re goin’ my way,” Cool sings with a curled lip and a red, homemade MAGA hat atop his head. “Hurry up, cuz the Trump train gonna fly away/The train ain’t gonna come back, cuz it jumped the track!”

After uploading a few videos, Cool decided to engage in some old-fashioned internet trolling. “To stir some stuff up, I put Craigslist ads all over the place asking musicians if they wanted to come play with me,” Cool said. “I got angry emails from liberals, angry emails from conservatives.... People were just breathing fire at me. The liberals would be angry because they think I’m celebrating MAGA culture and just being ridiculous. Then the Republicans, they would either love it because they thought I was speaking for them, or they would catch a whiff that it’s satire and that I was making fun of them.”

It doesn’t take too much digging to figure out that ’55 MAGAton is satirical. All the videos are uploaded from the Billy Cool and the Whips YouTube account, and in February of 2017, Cool posted a song titled “How’d Everybody Get Fooled?” featuring a slideshow of Trump images that are, um, unflattering. 

But ’55 MAGAton has fooled listeners on the Right and the Left, while also leaving plenty others confused. Scroll through YouTube comments on the videos and you'll find people saying, “Not sure if trolling or serious,” and, “I don't know if this is parody or not.”

“I tried to thread that needle,” Cool said. “You’re questioning, ‘Is this real or not? And if it’s not real, why did this guy spend so much time on these songs and videos?’ … There was a conservative writer that picked up on this and wrote a story on PJ Media. He thinks it’s for real, and he writes a for-real story about this MAGA band that’s having trouble finding members.” 

In reality, a live performance from ’55 MAGAton isn’t likely. “I’ll probably never play these songs live because we’d all get hurt,” Cool said. “I’ve actually put out an ad in earnest in Columbus to see if anybody had interest in playing … but nobody really wants to touch this thing. You show up to any club in town and start playing this stuff, there’s gonna be issues.”

Earlier this month, ’55 MAGAton released a self-titled, six-song EP, though Cool said he doesn’t have any lofty goals for the project. “Hopefully it makes people laugh, makes people think, makes people wonder why in the hell this guy did this: ‘Why isn’t he doing something more productive?’ Those are all fair questions,” he said. “The answer is, I love being in my basement writing songs, putting shit together. I’ve been doing it for 12 years, and whether it’s about poop or it’s about MAGA, it’s the same thing.”