Skip to main content

King Crimson, REM, Swans and Ministry drummer Bill Rieflin dead at 59

Bill Rieflin
Bill Rieflin: 1960-2020 (Image credit: Ebet Roberts/Redferns - Getty)

Bill Rieflin, the drummer who played with a wide range of artists including King Crimson, R.E.M., Ministry, Swans and KMFDM has died at the age of 59.

The news was first confirmed by King Crimson’s Robert Fripp, who said: “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.”

Rieflin hooked up with Ministry for their 1988 album The Land Of Rape And Honey and also played on The Mind Is A Terrible Thing and In Case You Didn’t Feel Like Showing Up.

“Today we lost a wonderful artist, tremendous human being and an integral part of Ministry’s developments and success," Ministry said a statement. "Safe travels my brother on the way to your next universal gig. R.I.P Bill Rieflin.”

Rieflin was also behind the kit for Nine Inch Nails’ The Fragile and subsequently joined R.E.M. for their live shows in 2003, going on to play on 2003’s Accelerate and 2011’s Collapse Into Now.

R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe posted a message on the band’s Instagram, saying: “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 favourite 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 humour, his relentless curiosity and of course his incredible musical ear, his time here with us so precious and golden.”

The drummer also played with artists including Revolting Cocks, Lard, KMFDM and Pig Face, and became a mainstay in Swans, playing on The Great Annihilator, Soundtracks For The Blind, My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky, The Seer, To Be Kind and The Glowing Man.

King Crimson recruited his services in 2013, with Rieflin playing with the band live and appeared on Live At The Orpheum, Live In Toronto, Radical Action To Unseat The Hold Of Monkey Mind, Live In Chicago and Meltdown: Live In Mexico.

No official cause of death has been revealed.