Bill Rieflin, drummer for R.E.M., King Crimson and Swans, dies of cancer at 59

Although his fame extends across his works with a large list of bands, Rieflin rarely officially joined any of them and rather operated as a long-term hired help


                            Bill Rieflin, drummer for R.E.M., King Crimson and Swans, dies of cancer at 59
Drummer Bill Rieflin at a REM concert in 2008 (Creative Commons)

Bill Rieflin, drummer for R.E.M., Ministry, Nine Inch Nails, Swans, King Crimson and many more, has died at the age of 59, according to friends and social media posts from several artists he performed with. He had been fighting a long battle with cancer.

Rieflin was known as a remarkable, versatile drummer with work spanning over 30 years. He had begun his career by playing in bands as a teenager in his hometown in Seattle. Although his fame extends across his works with a large list of bands, Rieflin rarely officially joined any of them and rather operated as a long-term hired help.

Growing up in Seattle, Rieflin played in a band with Paul Barker who joined the pioneering industrial band Ministry. Rieflin was eventually brought by Barker into the band in the early '90s. He played with them as well as with associated acts Revolting Cocks, Pigface, Chris Connelly and Lard. He also features in the song 'The Fragile' by Nine Inch Nails.

Through his drumming gig with pop group The Minus 5, Rieflin met R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck who invited him to join R.E.M. as a studio contributor and touring member from 2003 until the band’s breakup in 2011, according to Stereogum. He has also worked on a project called Slow Music with Buck and King Crimson founder Robert Fripp, and a project called the Humans with both Fripp and his wife, singer Toyah Wilcox.

A multi-instrumentalist, Rieflin has also released recordings as a solo artist and played drums, keyboards, bass and sang for the electro-industrial group KMFDM. Rieflin's most recent group was with the legendary prog band King Crimson where he began performing in 2013 as both a drummer and later a keyboardist. He frequently played with bands that included other drummers and King Crimson, featured three at times.
 
Rieflin’s wife, Francesca Sundsten, who was a painter, also died of cancer last year. She did the cover art for several albums Rieflin performed on, including KMFDM’s 'Nihil', Pigface’s 'Gub', Filthy Friends’ 'Invitation' and King Crimson’s 'Radical Action To Unseat The Hold Of Monkey Mind'.

In one of the most dramatic examples of Rieflin's versatility, he performed with the experimental rock group Swans and played drums on Robbie Williams’ album 'Take the Crown'.

Read the post announcing Rieflin's death from Robert Fripp here.

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