Bill Rieflin, R.E.M. and Ministry Drummer, Dead at 59

Veteran drummer Bill Rieflin has died at the age of 59. Rieflin – the versatile drummer and multi-instrumentalist who played with numerous acts across his 30-year career, including Nine Inch Nails, R.E.M., and Ministry – passed away Tuesday following a battle with cancer, according to his friends.

"Bill Rieflin flew from this world c. 18.50 Pacific, 18.50 UK," King Crimson founder Robert Fripp wrote on Facebook after receiving news of the drummer's death. "Tracy [Rieflin] 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."

Toyah Wilcox, in her own post, wrote that Reiflin had passed away surrounded by loved ones.

Born in Seattle in 1960, Rieflin began playing in the band The Blackouts, along with several others, in 1970s, forming a close bond with bassist Paul Barker, who later joined Ministry. Rieflin met and began working with the group’s founder Al Jourgensen, according to The Wrap, and went on to perform on a number of Ministry's albums, including 1987's The Land of Rape and Honey, 1989's The Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste, the band's acclaimed 1990 tour, and its commercial breakthrough, 1992's Psalm 69.

After parting ways with the group, Reiflin became involved in several other bands, including Pigface, KMFDM, the supergroup Lard, and Nine Inch Nails, and performed with acts in other musical genres, including R.E.M. and Robyn Hitchcock. In 2013, he became a member of King Crimson, and, after a hiatus in 2015, he returned as the band's first full-time keyboardist before he took an indefinite hiatus from the group in 2019.

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"There was a question of four drums up front, which is still in the world of possibility. However, for this tour, I said, 'Why don’t I just play keys?' My skill level is not at the highest, but I'm capable," he told Rolling Stone just before embarking on King Crimson’s 2017 North American Tour following his return to the band. "And so we said, 'Yeah, sure, do that.' Basically, I’ve made my own job after my other one was taken over by the exceptionally capable Jeremy Stacey. It's unprecedented that I was brought back in, and unprecedented again that I now fill a completely different role."

Rieflin was married to artist Francesca Sundsten, who died in 2019.