Bill Rieflin, Drummer for REM, Ministry, Nine Inch Nails, and King Crimson, Dead at Age 59

Bill Rieflin, who had a four-decade career as a drummer across Punk, Alternative Rock, Industrial Metal, and Progressive Rock has died. He was 59. Initial reports of his passing made no mention of a cause of death, but his Wikipedia page reported a battle with cancer, confirmed by his friend, session drummer Kevin Chamberlin. Most recently Bill was the drummer for King Crimson and the news was reported by KC founder Robert Fripp in a very sad and touching memorial via Facebook. Fripp wrote that Rieflin’s wife, Tracy, called him with the news. “Tracy told Toyah (Fripp’s wife) 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’s career began in his hometown of Seattle, where he drummed with a variety of local acts, notably the punk rock group The Blackouts. The band’s final EP was produced by Ministry’s Al Jourgensen, with whom Rieflin became friends with. Jourgensen recruited the Rieflin to join Ministry when Blackouts broke up, and Rieflin played on the band’s 1988 album The Land of Rape and Honey, an industrial music iconic album in the genre. He continued as a member of the group through the mid-90s, contributing to five of the band’s LPs. Following his departure from Ministry in 1996, he played with KMFDM, New York experimental band Swans and folk group Angels of Light. Rieflin also played on Nine Inch Nails’ 1999 double album The Fragile. Also that year, he released his debut solo album, Birth of a Giant. It was during this time that a publicist introduced him to R.E.M.’s Peter Buck. The drummer would then join and contribute to R.E.M.’s final three albums — 2004’s Around the Sun, 2008’s Accelerate and 2011’s Collapse Into Now. Rieflin had previously collaborated and remained friends, announced that the drummer had joined King Crimson in 2013. Rieflin would tour with the group and appear on five of their ensuing live albums, released between 2015-18. He had been absent from the group since taking an indefinite sabbatical in 2019. Bill was an incredible drummer and kind soul. Not many artists can say they wrote and performed with three Rock and Roll Hall of Fame acts (King Crimson, R.E.M., and Nine Inch Nails) as Bill did.  Many artists paid tribute to Bill, including fellow Seattle musician Krist Novoselic of Nirvana. We send out condolences to Bill’s family, friends and many fans at this time.