Bill Rieflin

Former Ministry, KMFDM, Etc. Drummer Bill Rieflin Passes Away


Former Ministry, etc. drummer, keyboardist, etc. Bill Rieflin has passed away at the age of 59 following a lengthy battle with cancer. Rieflin enjoyed a prolific career that saw him initially rise to fame with his playing on a number of influential Ministry, including the gold-selling “The Land Of Rape And Honey“, gold-selling “The Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste” and the platinum-selling “Psalm 69: The Way to Succeed and the Way to Suck Eggs“.

In addition to his exploits with Ministry, he was was also a multi-instrumentalist member of R.E.M., King Crimson, Lard, Revolting Cocks, KMFDM, Swans and many more. Ministry issued the following statement regarding his passing:

“Today we lost a wonderful artist, tremendous human being and an integral part of Ministry’s developments and success…

Safe travels my brother on the way to your next universal gig.

R.I.P. Bill Rieflin

#MinistryBand #WeAreMinistry #Ministry #Revco #RevoltingCocks #Lard #1000HomoDJs #LeadIntoGold #KMFDM #Swans #NineInchNails #REM #KingCrimson #Drummer #BillRieflin #RestInPeace”

R.E.M.‘s Michael Stipe offered:

Bill Rieflin (1960-2020)

It is with heavy hearts we acknowledge the death of our dear friend and consummate drummer, Bill.

Bill sent me this picture last week of him and Lenny Kaye earlier this month when the Patti Smith Group were in town and they got to hang out. He was elated to see such great friends and gather at his favorite weird Chinese-American diner.

A forever memory is decades old, when I first met Bill at a late night Policeman’s bar in Seattle, sat at a greasy table drinking scotch, and we listened to ‘Birdland’ off the jukebox in reverent silence and awe. His attentiveness to that song then and there indicated a lot to me about what it would be to work with Bill— which commenced to create some magical and beautiful collaborations and life long friendships.

And so to Bill now, he is among all the fine points of the stars and we are looking up with love— and with our own reverence for his beauty, his humor, his relentless curiosity and of course his incredible musical ear, his time here with us so precious and golden.” —Michael


“RIP Bill Rieflin, my dear dear friend and partner in crime of 30+ years.”

Rieflin had also performed with Robyn Hitchcock & The Venus 3 during his career. Hitchcock offered:

“I feel very sad about Bill Rieflin’s passing. He had a rough time in the last few years: during the later stages of his long fight with cancer (and Bill certainly fought) his beloved wife Frankie Sundsten developed lymphoma and passed away last March.

Bill was deliciously un-American in his outlook: there was no “It’s all good” for him. He saw human life in all its bleakness, and was happiest at home with his cats – or playing music.

Music was his superpower. He had an almost photographic recall of any song that he heard: he could work out the chords to the most intricate composition, and play it back to you on keyboards, bass or guitar.

Though best known for his drumming (especially in Ministry and REM) he latterly played bass and keyboards with a number of acts, including King Crimson. He endeared himself to me by saying that he took his cues and the timing from the vocalist on stage, rather than from the bass player or guitarist.

When we played shows, Bill would slip a weird little fill into a different song every night, as a way of saying “hello” to me: I’d turn around from the mic, and we’d smile at each other.

He was also insistent that every run-through of a song in the soundcheck had to stop before the end: that way the night’s performance would be the only complete one, and therefore had to be the best.

Bill was a very particular guy, and anything from a recording to a hotel room that he found inadequate had to be replaced with a better one. In many ways, he was quite rigorous, but, bless him, he enjoyed a drink when he needed to, and we did a fair amount of grooving together across the map.

Just before his first operation for prostate cancer in 2012, Bill and I were playing a festival at the Norwegian fishing town of Egersund. We visited each of its three funky Chinese restaurants and imagined how they might be trans-dimensional portals. Enjoy the fried rice, Bill, and don’t go hoping too much from the prawns. I’ll see you out there…”

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