Ministry, R.E.M. and King Crimson drummer, Bill Rieflin, dies aged 59

(Image credit: Ebet Roberts/Getty Images)

Bill Rieflin, the Seattle-based drummer who played for a diverse list of artists including Ministry, R.E.M., Nine Inch Nails, King Crimson and more has passed away after reportedly battling cancer.

The news of Bill’s death was broken by Robert Fripp, who paid tribute via his Facebook account after being informed by Bill’s wife, Tracy. 

“A call from Tracy Rieflin in Seattle. Bill Rieflin flew from this world c. 18.50 Pacific, 18.50 UK. Tracy told Toyah and me that the day was grey, and as Bill flew away the clouds opened, and the skies were blue for about fifteen minutes. Fly well, Brother Bill! My life is immeasurably richer for knowing you.”

(Image credit: Robert Fripp/Facebook)

Bill Rieflin's career started as a member of Seattle punks, The Blackouts, who split in 1984. Bill was then invited by Al Jourgensen to join industrial pioneers, Ministry. He would go on to appear on five Ministry albums including breakthrough The Land Of Rape and Honey, and The Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste. 

As well as forming and contributing other influential industrial/experimental acts, Revolting Cocks, Pigface, KMFDM and Swans, Rieflin contributed drums to La Mer on Nine Inch Nails’ acclaimed masterpiece The Fragile.

Following Bill Berry’s departure from R.E.M., the band drafted-in Rieflin in 2003. Rieflin remained REM’s studio and touring drummer until the band split in 2011. From here, Rieflin joined King Crimson in 2013, initially drumming alongside Gavin Harrison and Pat Mastelotto before switching keys in 2016. 

Ministry’s Al Jourgensen took to Twitter to pay his respects, saying, "Today we lost a wonderful artist, tremendous human being and an integral part of Ministry’s developments and success…Safe travels my brother on the way to your next universal gig. R.I.P Bill Rieflin"

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Meanwhile, R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe posted a tribute on Instagram. “He is among all the fine points of the stars and we are looking up with love— and with our own reverence for his beauty, his humor, his relentless curiosity and of course his incredible musical ear, his time here with us so precious and golden.” 

Posted by drummergavinharrison on 
Stuart Williams

I'm a freelance member of the MusicRadar team, specialising in drum news, interviews and reviews. I formerly edited Rhythm and Total Guitar here in the UK and have been playing drums for more than 25 years (my arms are very tired). When I'm not working on the site, I can be found on my electronic kit at home, or gigging and depping in function bands and the odd original project.