Drummer Bill Rieflin 1960 – 2020

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Renowned drummer and multi-instrumentalist Bill Rieflin of R.E.M., King Crimson and more has died from cancer at the age of 59. R.E.M. confirmed Rieflin’s death in a social media post.

Bill Rieflin was a pioneering member of the burgeoning industrial music sphere in the mid-1970s. He began his music career around that time in his native Seattle, playing with a number of bands including The Blackouts consisting of Rieflin and his brother Raymond as well as Paul Barker. Barker would go on to join industrial metal progenitors Ministry.

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After collaborating with Ministry mastermind Al Jourgensen in the band Revolting Cocks, Rieflin also went on to play with Ministry, drumming on some of their most well-known records including 1988’s The Land Of Rape And Honey. Bill would stay on with Ministry as a session drummer, along with other percussionists like Martin Atkins, until the Filth Pig sessions in the mid-’90s.

Rieflin would help Atkins form the industrial collective Pigface in the early ‘90s and also struck up a friendship with Scottish industrial musician Chris Connely with whom Rieflin would collaborate on projects including The Ultimate Seaside Companion and Largo giving him a chance to show off his keyboard skills. In 1999, however, Rieflin struck out on his own and released his debut solo album, Birth Of A Giant.

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The album featured contributions from Robert Fripp, founding member of legendary prog-rock band King Crimson, as well as Crimson’s Trey Gunn. The three musicians would release another album, The Repercussions of Angelic Behavior (taken from the Birth Of A Giant sessions). At around the same time, Rieflin toured and recorded with the German industrial band KMFDM and also recorded with perhaps the most famous industrial band of all time, Nine Inch Nails.

Rieflin would also paly drums for the supergroup, The Minus 5, which included guitarist Peter Buck of R.E.M. Rieflin eventually replaced R.E.M. drummer Bill Berry in 2003 and would stay on with the band until it disbanded in 2011. During his time in R.E.M., Rieflin, Buck and Fripp formed an experimental group called Slow Music and in 2013, Fripp announced Rieflin as one of King Crimson’s three drummers. But Crimson would also utilize Rieflin’s full range of musical skills. With the addition of another drummer in 2017, Rieflin became the storied band’s first full-time keyboardist until he took an indefinite sabbatical in 2019, the same year his wife, the painter Francesca Sundsten, died.

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To remember Bill Rieflin, check out a video of him drumming with King Crimson’s three drummer attack and also read a eulogy from R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe below: