Bill Rieflin, who drummed for Ministry, R.E.M., and most recently King Crimson, has passed away at the age of 59. While no cause of death has been reported, social media posts suggest he was battling cancer.
The news was reported by King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp, who wrote on Facebook, “A call from Tracy Rieflin in Seattle … 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.”
Rieflin got his start in the late ’70s and early ’80s in Seattle, playing with bands like The Telepaths and The Blackouts. Eventually a few members of The Blackouts, including Rieflin, were recruited by Al Jourgenson to join Ministry.
It was in the industrial scene that Rieflin made a name for himself, having played drums on classic Ministry albums The Land of Rape and Honey, The Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste, and Psalm 69: The Way to Succeed and the Way to Suck Eggs. Rieflin also performed on a number of albums from industrial stalwarts KMFDM, as well as efforts from Revolting Cocks and Pigface, among others.
“Today we lost a wonderful artist, tremendous human being and an integral part of Ministry’s developments and success,” read a statement on Ministry’s social pages.
Rieflin also played with Swans and performed on one track on Nine Inch Nails’ The Fragile.
In 2003, Bill Rieflin joined R.E.M., playing drums with the band until their breakup in 2011. In addition to touring with R.E.M., he appeared on the albums Around the Sun, Accelerate, and Collapse Into Now.
At the time of his death, Rieflin was a current member of King Crimson, although he had stepped away from touring back in 2016.
Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic is among the artists who are mourning Rieflin, writing on Twitter, “So sorry to hear of Bill Rieflin passing away. A straight up person and excellent musician.”
Today we lost a wonderful artist, tremendous human being and an integral part of Ministry’s developments and success…— Ministry (@WeAreMinistry) March 24, 2020
Safe travels my brother on the way to your next universal gig.
R.I.P Bill Rieflin pic.twitter.com/5YfhvGUZcR