Curious to know why this kind of debate is always about Steve Roach ?
How come you never see something like this about Robert Rich (for example) ?
It seems Robert is allowed to just get on with his music without some people feeling the need to
publicly 'big him up'/chastise any 'off-message' nay-sayers periodically.
I'm stating the obvious, but any artist isn't going to appeal to everyone and saying something
to the effect that a listener 'doesn't get it' if they don't like artist 'X' is a bit pointless.
At the risk of jumping in where angels fear to tread, I'll give you my two cents.
Why Steve Roach has the status he does:
1) He's a little like Sara Lee ("Nobody doesn't like Sara Lee") and I mean that sincerely. With his deep and broad discography, everyone seems to like at least one Steve Roach album, whether his Berlin school stuff, his fractal grooves, his ethno-tribal, his dark ambient, his desert spacemusic well, you get the idea. So, hardly anyone ever comes into a discussion and says "Who is this Steve Roach of whom you speak?"
2) Lots of people know "him" personally. He's produces other artists, he spends time talking to many of them, he plays live, etc. As a result, there is a perceived and/or actual kinship with a lot more folks than, e.g. Robert Rich. He also engenders good will through these actions and that further makes him more unassailable.
3) He is a "serious" musician, i.e. he takes his music very seriously and seems to be a very serious person as well. He's into shamanism etc. This sets up a dynamic whereby, unless you want to be perceived as making fun of someone who is viewed as "serious," you best keep yer opinions to yourself. If Steve were to have the self-deprecating sense of humor that some ambient artists have (I won't name names but I'll bet most of you know who heads that list), it would be easier to every now and then take a pot shot at him, knowing he could roll with the punches.
4) He makes a living at his music so, as a result, it's hard to go after the guy. After all, what else is he supposed to do? It's admirable that this is the life he has chosen and he is doing what he can to endure in what is, admittedly, a genre in which NO ONE has become rich selling records (except Vangelis, probably, and only if you consider the pompous Greek an ambient artist). This doesn't count the ambient subgenre of dance music, e.g. Oakenfold, which sells tons of copies.
5) For whatever reason, and this is the snarky rationale, his music resonates on a deep spiritual level like no other ambient artist. Myself, meh, I don't get it. I love some of the guy's music, like some of it, and some of it is so ponderous that I seldom get past the first 10 minutes. Yet, because people have an almost mystical/religious experience listening to his music, they really "bring it" when his music is attacked. Hey, just try and tell a devout Christian that Jesus was "just a man." When art resonates deep into someone's core, they sometimes feel the need to defend their love of it. I say this is the "snarky" reason because I don't understand the reflexive action that when someone doesn't like Roach, instead of it being that person's taste, it's a matter of them not "getting it." But I do understand what drives the devotion. I just don't understand the vitriol that accompanies it. And just once I'd love to have Steve say to his followers "Chill. You ain't doing me any favors by alienating those folks who don't like some of my music as much as you do." Provided he feels that way.
6) He is a private person (yeah, this kinda flies in the face of point number 2) in that he lives out in the desert and most of the times keeps to himself (most artists come to him, IIRC, not the other way around). He has, again IIRC, seldom if ever "spoken" on the internet...not here, not on the spacemusic list, the ambient@hyperreal list, not on rec.music.ambient, etc. So, when he is attacked (or is perceived as being attacked) the very human reaction from fans is "he's not here to defend himself so by the gods I'll do it...they're not going to pick on him when he can't be here to answer for him; someone's gotta stick up for the guy." Again, this is not like...oh geez, we can run a lot of you guys on this list, take your pick; many of you have spoken up about your own music.
Anyway, that's just some random ramblings on the question. Look, I'm not trying to be mean-spirited or flip, but long-timers know that I have never been the biggest fan of his music or of him, but in the past, somehow, that got twisted into folks thinking I hated his music or hated him. Not true at all. But I don't think he is all that. And I feel the same way about most of the "revered" e.g. Eno, Budd, Vangelis, Klaus Schulze, Aphex, you name him, and I think the slavish devotion to them is unwarranted because, well, they're just musicians. As I wrote earlier, I have a deep friendship with Kevin Kendle, but that's because of who he has been to me as a person, not his music. But if you said his music was sucky, fine. You can even insult him as a person if you want to. I know who he is and that's good enough for me. Only if you crossed over into criminal level libel would I probably give a damn (call him a child molester and watch out!).
Sorry if the above rankles anyone (I can think of a few who it might), but as many of you know by now, I seldom back away from speaking my mind.