Code of the West started out as a band called The Ape Cult. This was in sometime in 1983. The original band consisted of Terry Barnes as the chief songwriter and vocalist, Guy Brenner on guitar, Tom Dean on bass and Chris Walcott on drums. Guy, Tom and Chris were also playing in The Lemmings at the same time. The Ape Cult sound was a mixture of early psychedelic, and punk rock. Later on, western music was thrown into the mix. That's when The Ape Cult became Code of the West. Terry used to describe the sound as a mixture of Hank Williams and Lou Reed.
Originally based in Berkeley, the band played the usual circuit of east bay and SF dives at the time: The Berkeley Square, The Mabuhay, On Broadway, Ruthies Inn, The Starry Plough, The Vis Club (long before it became the Kennel Club), The Farm, Receiving Studios.
Right away we realized that if we were gong to make it, we needed to create a "scene" around us. That's when we decided to start looking for a warehouse where we could open up an underground night club. We rented a warehouse in West Oakland along the estuary near the cargo docks. The warehouse was a former Del Monte tomato sauce factory so naturally it came to be known as The Sauce Room. Our new pad gave us a place to live and a place to rehearse. Running the weekly afterhours club had the extra benefit of covering our rent.
The warehouse had two floors - both around 1250 square feet. Downstairs we built a stage at one end (a slanted one at that), and upstairs we setup a disco with all kinds of weird lights that we scavenged and several 16 mm projectors that were probably "lifted" from Cal. We had a box full of film - mostly bits and pieces on reels and every week Tom would rent a movie - usually something old or very bizarre. We had a stable of DJ's that would spin disks for us each week. We charged 5 bucks at the door and served beer on both floors. A buck for a Bud and two bucks for a Becks. Hours were from midnight to 6am. We usually ran it every Saturday night but sometimes we'd do it on Fridays as well.
The Sauce Room soon became the east bay punk rock cultural center. We usually had at least four to six bands play every night. We had all kinds of musical styles come through but mostly it was various forms of rock n' roll. One of my favorite bookings was death rock night. All the pasty white, black leather rockers would come. The Sauce Room was a regular stop for punk bands doing the underground, cross country tour circuit.
The Sauce Room lasted about a year before we got shut down by the cops. We always had to deal with various gangs getting into fights but we never had anyone get seriously hurt. Dudes would be dancing upstairs and someone would bump into someone else and there would be a stream of people going outside to settle it. At least they went outside! Anyway, the cops knew what we were doing but were content to let us have our little club as long as we kept things under control - which we did.
Our eventual downfall came from some yahoos from the other side of the tunnel that broke into one of the adjacent spaces. We immediately got a 30 eviction notice from the landlord. Of course, we continued to run the club every Friday and Saturday until the end of the month. On the last night, around 4 in the morning, the cops busted in. I was tending bar at the time (with a pocket full of cash and a refrigerator half full of beer) when a pal ran up to me and said "the cops are inside!" Fortunately I had a kill switch for the lights over the bar and the cops never saw me. They went upstairs, grabbed Tom and Berry (who was also tending bar) and took them outside in the back seat of one of the cop cars.
At this point the order came that everyone was to leave the building. We had no choice but to leave not knowing the fate of Tom and Berry. Apparently the cops searched the place looking for "powders" - since that's what they are used to dealing with in Oakland underground clubs. Since they didn't find any evidence of hard drugs, they let Tom and Barry go with this warning: Next time they would confiscate all of our sound and musical equipment. Nuff said!
Soon after "the big bust" we started looking for another warehouse. We checked out various places including the Phoenix Ironworks - which was a bit drafty and over crowded for us. We wanted our own space that we didn't have to share with anyone else. We found our new warehouse in East Oakland in a former book binding factory. Naturally we called our new home "The Bindery". Compared to the Sauce Room, this place was huge. Around 9000 square feet - about the size of a football field.
At the time I was living in the Western Edition of San Francisco. Since Tom was putting up the initial cash for the place, he needed tenants right away so I moved in. There was nothing inside, just a big open space. We immediately started building rehearsal spaces with living quarters above. At one point I was living above Heathen who practiced 7 days a week!
Soon after we moved into the Bindery - which was early 1985 - we landed a manager. Code of the West was being represented by Olga Gerrard whose husband Jerry worked for Bill Graham. They were also managing this new band called Faith No More.
The gigs started flowing. We started playing some of the best houses in the City like Wolfgangs, The Stone and The Fillmore. We played several gigs with The Beat Farmers as well as The Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Meat Puppets and Big Audio Dynamite. We also produced a single in 1985 (see below). Things were looking good for us.
I wish I could say there was a happy ending to this story but sadly things fell apart early in 1986. Without going into too many details here, I'll just say that there was some personal self-destruction going on that the band couldn't recover from.
Anyway, the demise of Code of the West ended a major chapter in my life. I played in several short term projects for the next few years and eventually ended up in a band called Project 6.
Produced by: Sterling Storm Engineered by: Bill Thompson Recorded at: Starlight Studios, Richmond CA Live Sound: Tumbleweed Cover Art: Kent Mathieu Cover Title: Barry Spencer Logo: Marc Mathieu Terry Barnes: Lead Vocal, Guitar Guy Brenner: Guitar, Vocal Tom Dean: Bass Chris Walcott: Drums Pedal Steel by Aron (Buddy Ray Jo-Bob) Bradley Music by T. Barnes & Code of the West