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

Prolific drummer Bill Rieflin — who played with King Crimson, R.E.M., Swans, Nine Inch Nails, Ministry, Revoting Cocks, KMFDM, Pigface and more — has died after a battle with cancer. He was 59 years old.

Rieflin first made a name for himself in the early industrial-music scene, working with Ministry — he played drums on 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 — Revolting Cocks and Pigface. He teamed with R.E.M. in 2003 and drummed with them until the band’s 2011 split. Most recently, he’d been playing with King Crimson, who he joined in 2013.

As news of his passing spread, many of his friends and collaborators paid tribute. “Bill Rieflin flew from this world c. 18.50 Pacific, 18.50 UK,” King Crimson’s Robert Fripp commented. “Fly well, Brother Bill! My life is immeasurably richer for knowing you.” Ministry added via their social media: “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.” KMFDM’s Sascha Konietzko wrote, “RIP Bill Rieflin, my dear dear friend and partner in crime of 30+ years.”

R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe offered a lengthier statement:

“Bill Rieflin (1960-2020)

It is with heavy hearts we acknowledge the death of our dear friend and consummate drummer, Bill.

“Bill sent me this picture last week of him and Lenny Kaye earlier this month when the Patti Smith Group were in town and they got to hang out. He was elated to see such great friends and gather at his favorite weird Chinese-American diner.

A forever memory is decades old, when I first met Bill at a late night Policeman’s bar in Seattle, sat at a greasy table drinking scotch, and we listened to ‘Birdland’ off the jukebox in reverent silence and awe. His attentiveness to that song then and there indicated a lot to me about what it would be to work with Bill— which commenced to create some magical and beautiful collaborations and life long friendships.

And so to Bill now, 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.” —Michael”