Alejandro Morales, Chicago punk, noise drummer with the trio Running, dead at 46

He was a fixture at Chicago music venues like The Hideout and the Empty Bottle, where a memorial vigil was held in his honor.

SHARE Alejandro Morales, Chicago punk, noise drummer with the trio Running, dead at 46
Alejandro Morales (right) with his friend Ben Billington.

Alejandro Morales (right) with his friend Ben Billington, pictured in March 2010 at The Empty Bottle.

Tamara L. Smith

Alejandro Morales, a drummer with the Chicago punk trio Running who also played with other experimental noise groups, died Jan. 3 while visiting his family in Puerto Rico, where he grew up.

He was 46. The cause of death wasn’t disclosed.

Ben Billington, a musician and friend of Mr. Morales, said he remembers seeing him play with Running when the group was first making a name for itself, playing seven- to eight-minute sets at DIY spots across the city.

The group played so hard that, Billington said, “Alejandro would just fall off his drum stool at the end of the set. It wasn’t about the length. It was about the strength, the power, the energy.

“He put every single ounce into everything he believed in at all times, whether that was loving his friends or his partners or rock-and-rolling with his friends and supporting others.”

Mr. Morales went to college in Indiana after leaving Puerto Rico and moved to Chicago soon after. By the mid-2000s, he was a mainstay in Chicago’s underground scene with the band Piss Piss Piss Moan Moan Moan, which described itself on Soundcloud as “an experimental noise duo that plays tribal-punk drums, bent s--- and electronic equipment in creating works that are by turns delicate and extreme.”

P. Michael, a bandmate of Mr. Morales in the noise group ONO, said he was blown away when he saw PPPMMM play in 2007 at Elastic Arts in Logan Square. Though Mr. Morales didn’t formally join ONO until about five years later, the two immediately bonded over their passion for social work.

Mr. Morales worked for the Resurrection Project in Pilsen, helping people with financial and housing insecurity problems, and Michael a caseworker for people with HIV.

Alejandro Morales with an aquatic friend.

Alejandro Morales with an aquatic friend.

Provided

Mr. Morales later left the Resurrection Project to work for the Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation, a nonprofit community development group in Humboldt Park. He had just finished getting an accounting degree and planned to continue his nonprofit work as a certified public accountant, according to Billington.

“It was a passion of his as much as music was — working with nonprofits that had to do with community, fair housing and equity, fighting gentrification in a logical and stable way,” Billington said.

Even as Mr. Morales worked for the two community agencies, Running was gaining acclaim, which took him on several national tours and got the band recording deals.

Matthew Hord, a bassist and singer with Running, said he met him through mutual friends. Though Hord wasn’t actively playing music at the time, he said Mr. Morales convinced him and another friend, Jeff Tucholski, to start “a punk band that would be in the noise, experimental realm,” and they formed the trio.

He was a fixture at Chicago music venues like The Hideout and the Empty Bottle, where a memorial vigil was held in his honor and where there have been calls to rename the green room the “Alex Morales Palace.”

Friends said Mr. Morales had a way of making the people around him feel welcome.

They said he also had some quirky traits — like being fascinated with clowns and Hello Kitty.

Beyond his own music, he was an enthusiastic supporter of others in Chicago’s musical community.

“He was always down to attend a show and check out a new band,” Hord said. “He was like the antithesis of jaded, especially at his age. He didn’t ever get to a point where he hated music. He was still thirsty to absorb new projects and be part of the action.”

Billington said Mr. Morales’ death has left an outsized hole in the underground music scene.

“His energy was such an important part of supporting each other and supporting the community,” he said. “And it’s really important to me and a bunch of our peers to that take that piece of Alex with us and keep his spirit alive.”

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