Bill Rieflin, the critically acclaimed drummer who has worked with the likes of Ministry, R.E.M., King Crimson and more, has died at the age of 59.
Far Out reported the news earlier today that Rieflin lost his battle with cancer. At the time, the news was confirmed by his King Crimson bandmate Robert Fripp: “A call from Tracy Rieflin in Seattle,” Fripp wrote in a post on social media. “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.”
A statement on Ministry’s social pages also confirmed the news: “Today we lost a wonderful artist, tremendous human being and an integral part of Ministry’s developments and success,” it read.
Now, the family of the musician has released the following statement:
Musician Bill Rieflin passed away after an eight-year duel with cancer.
Seattle native and life-long resident, Bill was a world-class musician who was at home on the drums, guitar, bass, and keyboards. He was also an accomplished composer and producer who possessed a sophisticated ear, a depth of rare talent and complete dedication to his craft.
Known for much of his career as an extraordinary drummer, Bill performed with a wide range of artists and bands from Swans and Ministry to R.E.M. and King Crimson and many more.
Bill also lost his beloved wife of 27 years, master painter Francesca Sundsten, to cancer last year.
His refined manner, brilliant mind, eye for the ironic and legendary sense of humor defined him as a man of discerning taste, palate, and company.
We will miss him terribly.
Rest easy, Bill.
Rieflin, who was born in 1960 in Seattle, Washington, started his music career as a multi-instrumentalist in the same city. Given his sheer love for music and his desire to be in a band, Rieflin accepted his role on the drums and fill made it his own. “Drums were never my first choice as an instrument,” he once explained too NPR in 2011, “but that’s what was needed in the neighbourhood bands.”
The musician would work with a string of bands in his early career such as The Telepaths, The Screamers and The Tupperwares before he and Paul Barker eventually formed Ministry and became one of the major pioneers of industrial metal. From there, Rieflin didn’t hold back. After cementing himself as a much-loved figure of alternative music, the drummer went on to collaborate on more than 50 studio albums with a host of acclaimed bands.
Death Cab for Cutie’s Dave Pepper said: “One of the wisest, kindest, funniest, grumpiest, most talented humans that has ever graced the earth has left us. Member of REM, King Crimson, and countless other projects, Bill Rieflin introduced me to so many new ways of thinking, both through his art and his friendship.”
Singer-songwriter Robyn Hitchcock also took to social media to pay tribute: “The great Bill Rieflin has changed hotel rooms for the last time – after a long battle with cancer he checked out and left us today. Musical genius and bleak perfectionist, Bill graced me with his drumming, harmonies and laser-sharp insight between 2005 and 2013. RIP dear boy.”
RIP Bill Rieflin.