Shortly after graduating from Springfield High School in 1984, an 18-year-old Mark Lightcap left Delaware County for the California Institute of the Arts, nurturing the typical rock ’n’ roll dream. He got to live that dream in the 1990s as the guitarist for the critically acclaimed band Acetone. Led by Lightcap and bassist Richie Lee, the Los Angeles experimental rock trio signed to a major label in 1993 and toured with some of the era’s most well-known acts, including Oasis, the Verve and Garbage. After a tumultuous eight years, Acetone’s original lineup came unraveled, and Lee tragically committed suicide. Since then, Lightcap has continued to play music in various capacities. He also oversees the groundbreaking artwork of the late Mike Kelley. Meanwhile, Acetone is the subject of a new box set covering the group’s entire seven-year studio output.
The grunge band Nirvana had just broken big when Acetone got signed. It was a crazy time in the music industry. How did you endure all the hype?
We were all about the music. We were going to do it regardless of whether we were selling records or not. Sure, we wanted to quit our day jobs, but we didn’t expect to be signed so quickly or in such a spectacular fashion.
How did that happen?
Our management sent out our demos, and it was perfectly timed for the post-Nirvana feeding frenzy. It seemed like almost overnight we had Geffen and Interscope and [Virgin Records] upstart Vernon Yard barking up our tree. [Vernon Yard’s] Keith Wood was a real music fan. He loved the music, and he wanted to have it. But it was crazy. We hadn’t even played any gigs at that point.
How did you come to terms with what happened to your bandmate?
It was awful. It was just devastating. And with a suicide, it’s harder to grieve because there’s all this anger intermingled with it. For me, there was a kind of survivor’s guilt. I had these recordings that were more in the Acetone realm. I shopped them around a bit, but it felt weird to me. I realized it was wrong to be out there aggressively trying to move on in that way.
If he’d lived, do you think Acetone would’ve made another album?
Absolutely—and that’s one of those things that’s so frustrating to me. There’d been a lot of ego conflicts between he and I. It was never in the form of hot flashes—it was more like a cold war. But after the humbling experience of the later years, we were moving past that. I was really looking forward to the next record.
What are you up to these days?
In 2005, I started working for the artist Mike Kelley. When he died in 2012, I was the head of his fabrication studio. My colleague and I took on a lot of activity that family normally does when somebody dies. It’s turned into the Mike Kelley foundation, and I’m the steward of the collection.
Do you still have ties to the area?
My brother, Stephen Lightcap, is the VP of finance and administration at La Salle University. He lives in Newtown Square.
Well, you’ve definitely lost the Delco accent.
If I’m back there, it comes back quickly. It’s pretty funny.