Steven “Jesse” Bernstein (December 4, 1950 – October 22, 1991) was an American underground writer and performance artist who is most famous for his recordings with Sub Pop Records and close relationship with William S. Burroughs. Bernstein’s substance abuse issues and mental illness contributed to his provocative local celebrity, though they ultimately culminated in his suicide.
Steven Jesse Bernstein was born in Los Angeles, California. He moved to Seattle, Washington in 1974 where he adopted the moniker Jesse, and began performing and self-publishing chapbooks of his poetry (the first chapbook was Choking On Sixth, 1978). Bernstein would become something of an icon to many in Seattle’s underground music scene. Notable fans included Kurt Cobain and Oliver Stone. Bernstein’s mental illness was not as alarming as it might have been off the stage, as his drug-reinforced manic episodes were harnessed and channeled into engrossing, often perverse, entertainment. According to one Seattle newspaper, he opened for music acts such as Nirvana, Big Black, Soundgarden, U-Men, and The Crows:
“He read poems from a stage with a live rodent in his mouth, its tail twitching as baseline punctuation. He tried to cut his heart out in order to hold it in his hands and calm it down. He once urinated on a heckler and tended to throw things: beer bottles, manuscripts, drumsticks, his wallet, a sandwich.1
The concept for the Bernstein album Prison was for Jesse to do a raw, live performance at Monroe, Washington State Penitentiary Special Offenders unit in 1991. Jesse went with his manager Barbara Buckland, Bruce Pavitt from Sub Pop Records, Grant Alden, then with Seattle’s Rocket Magazine,…
MEDIUMS: CS, CD
1. No No Man (Part 1)
2. Morning in the Sub-Besement of Hell
3. More Noise Please
4. The Sport (Part 1)
- No tour dates scheduled at this time.