Bill Rieflin, a drummer who worked with bands R.E.M., King Crimson and Ministry, has died at the age of 59.

Veteran Seattle musician Rieflin died Tuesday morning after battling cancer for years. His sister-in-law Kathryn Rieflin confirmed his death. By Tuesday evening social media was flooded with many tributes and warm memories from fans and musician friends.

“Bill Rieflin was a gentleman and a gentle man, but he could beat the s–t out of a set of drums,” R.E.M. bassist Mike Mills wrote on Twitter. “A musical polymath, deeply intelligent and very funny. I’ll miss sharing his darkness and his laughter. Words really don’t suffice. R.I.P., Spill Brieflin.”

King Crimson founder Robert Fripp wrote on Facebook following receiving a phone call confirming Rieflin’s death. He added, “Fly well, Brother Bill! My life is immeasurably richer for knowing you.”

The Seattle native had deep ties to the local music community. In-demand drummer for hire got his start in the ’70s with Seattle punk bands the Telepaths and the Blackouts. But the bands he was best known for performing with weren’t from the region. After recording an early ’80s Blackouts EP with Ministry founder Al Jourgensen, Rieflin went on to join Jourgensen’s band and became a fixture in the industrial rock scene of the late-’80s and early-’90s, also performing with supergroups Revolting Cocks and Pigface.


Rieflin’s versatility as a drummer and multi-instrumentalist and the respect he had from fellow musicians led to him contributing to a diverse array of groups. He served as R.E.M.’s touring drummer beginning in 2003 and contributed other instrumentation to their recordings until the group disbanded in 2011, and also performed with the Minus 5. In 2013, he joined King Crimson and was one of several drummers, and after a hiatus in 2015, he continued to contribute to the band until he took an indefinite hiatus from the group in 2019. He had also played with Peter Murphy, Chris Cornell, Nine Inch Nails, and many others.

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