Last fall, Milwaukee rapper, filmmaker, and visual artist Wesley Charles Tank—aka “WC Tank”—released Almost Forever, a five-song EP the eccentric art-rapper wrote and self-produced in its entirety, along with shooting a music video for every song of the release and writing and assembling handmade liner notes. Now, less than 10 months later, WC Tank is back with a new release, and he’s returned closer to the sound listeners have come to know and appreciate from his past efforts. Though Vanishing Points, which was released today, somewhat hearkens back to Tank’s earlier records, a lot has changed between then and now.
Before tonight’s WMSE “Local/Live” performance at Club Garibaldi (which doubles as his Vanishing Points release show), the rapper, filmmaker, and artist discussed his new record, giving control to producers he trusts, adapting his material using a full band live, and why he decided to move to West Allis.
Milwaukee Record: In Vanishing Points, I’m noticing a lot of the names of producers are familiar for anyone who has heard your past releases. You have Riley Lake, Braden Morgan, Joshua Breakfast, and Seakn. Why did you ask them back?
WC Tank: Well, I’m really close friends with all of them and they’re also some of my favorite producers in the city. I’m watching them all evolve with their production styles. Riley Lake, we started working on the songs together and we did two songs last summer when we were playing shows together, then we didn’t do any songs in six months. During that time, he released an album. He mixed and helped produce Max Holiday’s record. I heard such an evolution in his music. Someone like Josh [Evert], who people have known from The Fatty Acids and Jaill for a long time, I don’t know if he’s even released beats before. You can hear some of that Fatties style in there and hear that it’s his voice. I think making beats for rappers is a personal evolution for him, and same with Seakn. It’s all about evolving, I guess.
MR: In what ways would you say Vanishing Points differs from your previous releases, including Almost Forever, which came out only like a year ago?
WT: Almost Forever was self-produced, so that was kind of a special projection its own way, and it was a very succinct EP. All those songs feel like they were of a short period of time, where this one spent a year and a half or two of time in my life. A lot of stuff has happened over the course of time in my life. It’s very much a callback to Painghosty Dreamlaughs, which was my first full-length I recorded as WC Tank back in 2011. That has 15 tracks, this has 15 tracks. It calls back to that because it spans a lot of relationships in my life and a lot of emotion and musical styles. There’s rap stuff, there’s pop stuff, and kind of country-ish stuff.
MR: Did you enjoy having the ability to focus on the lyrical and arrangement aspects of it, as opposed to having to also make the beats, or was it hard to put control of a song into the hands of someone else?
WT: I absolutely loved that. I worked closely with the producers, at least with Josh, Riley, and Seakn. I’m not a control freak. At a certain point, I just make sure my lyric flow is where I want it to be at, and as long as it’s heard, the beats are almost like the delivery system for the lyrical content.
MR: Will this release also rely on video components like Almost Forever and your previous releases?
WT: Yeah, I’m already working with Kurt Raether to complete what we consider a trilogy of videos. We started with “Candy Council” and then “Demigodz (Of Tha Law),” and we’re still in conversation over which song to do next. I might direct something, but I don’t think I’m going to do it. I just directed these teasers for [the album] and that was enough. I’m already working on the next process, and I have too many films to make to spend time on making music videos for myself.
MR: And you also have a new band to lead. I see you’re adapting it into a live band format, The Dub Sea Tank Quintet. Why did you decide to bring in a live band?
WT: It started exclusively for this WMSE show. I needed to do this for a long time. I love working with Riley Lake, but when we perform live, we’re completely re-mixing it and making new songs. I wanted to create a band that learned songs that already exist. Riley’s a genius and we’re super tight, but I also want to not have him feel obligated to work on my stuff.
MR: I should mention that we’re doing this interview from West Allis, which is where you live now. What prompted the move? Was it artistically based, or occupational because you work around here?
WT: It started off as a joke. I thought it would be funny to move to West Allis. Then I got serious about it and started looking on Craigslist. Somebody who I worked with who’s from West Allis urged me not to. Just being involved in so many scenes in Milwaukee that are great—music, film, art—there’s so much happening in the city that I don’t want to be influenced by it, and I want to maintain my path. Some of the politics and mental static made me want to get a little space.
WC Tank will release Vanishing Points at Club Garibaldi tonight, as part of WMSE’s “Local/Live” program. The show starts at 5:30 p.m. and is free. The album is available for stream and download at WC Tank’s Bandcamp page. Breadking will have a limited run of cassettes available at tonight’s show.