“With us, it’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy,” he says. “If you go and look through my record collection, my favorite records are the ones where I feel like I’m the only one who has it.” I think there’s more to it than that. When bandmates find each other, like Hadley, Lee and Lightcap did, it can be a cosmic event, as illustrated in Sam Sweet’s book. When a listener finds that band and their songs, it’s cosmic just the same. As listeners, we’re always chasing that phenomenon.
After the end of Acetone, Lightcap took a job as a fabricator in celebrated Los Angeles visual artist (and fellow CalArts graduate) Mike Kelley’s studio. After Kelley’s suicide in 2012, Lightcap transitioned to work as the collections manager for Kelley’s body of work. He currently plays guitar in The Dick Slessig Combo, a band even more obscure than Acetone by design.
I ask Lightcap if, in the ‘90s, they felt like the public were idiots for not latching onto their albums, or if they thought that Acetone was the problem. “I would say both,” he says. “We were disgruntled, and we did think people were idiots. But there was also this sense of, are we doing something wrong? Is it us?”
As Gretel, the Australian Kelpie, playfully nibbles on my hand to encourage me to keep scratching behind her ear, Lightcap cautions against mythmaking with obscure bands. “You have to be aware that oftentimes there’s a false narrative superimposed on bands after the fact,” he says. “Look at Death. Death is an amazing band, but that whole narrative of these guys invented punk rock? It’s like, well, no—they’re just freaks who had this incredible band that slipped through the cracks. It’s enough for them to have just been amazing.” His description of Death could easily be applied to Acetone.
As our beer cans get lighter and the November sun sets early, Lightcap and I continue talking in total darkness. He warns that we “might get strafed by an owl.” I ask Lightcap if, when assembling the box set, he’d catch himself thinking about what Lee would’ve made of the spotlight finally landing on Acetone.
“He would’ve loved it,” Lightcap says, raising his voice slightly to compete with the chorus of crickets that start chirping around us. “There’s no way to work with this material and not be thinking of him constantly. He would be totally gratified and stoked, along with the rest of us. I mean, Richie, he wanted to be a fucking rock star. When he took his life, he definitely didn’t want to pull the music down into the grave with him. He wanted to live on. So he would be totally excited about all of this. He was our number-one cheerleader. Richie was like, ‘We are the best band in the world.’ And Steve and I would be like, ‘Dude, come on. We fucking kick ass. But you’re going a little far.’ He insisted: We are the greatest thing. But, yeah, I listen to this stuff and I miss him.”
It’s so dark outside that Lightcap considers getting his Coleman lantern, but he doesn’t. I ask if he’s thought about the fact that, with the box set and the reissued LPs, the Acetone narrative is about to open a new chapter. In 2017, when Acetone played a show in Los Angeles with Hope Sandoval of Mazzy Star on vocals, it was their first in fifteen years; Lightcap says that he and Hadley may play live as Acetone again soon. For years, Acetone records were a rare commodity and sold for hundreds of dollars. Now, they’ll be available to anyone who wants them. Lightcap laughs. “I’m okay with that,” he says. “We’ve done our time in the black hole.”