My Jakarta: Paulus Panggabean, Hard Rock Cafe General Manager

My Jakarta: Paulus Panggabean, Hard Rock Cafe General Manager
by Zack Petersen

Hard Rock Cafe - Paulus Panggabean

Hard Rock Cafe - Paulus Panggabean


Paulus Panggabean lives the good life. He’s not exactly on vacation 24/7, but it’s close. As the general manager of Hard Rock, Paulus splits his time between Bali and Jakarta. He lives it up in two of the countries hottest spots, meeting the coolest people and listening to the best music—and he gets paid to do it.

The tattooed father of four sat down to quell our jealousy, talk about his favorite piece of Hard Rock nostalgia and let us in on the mystery surrounding the origin of the Hard Rock name.

Question: How many Hard Rock T-shirts do you have?
Paulus Panggabean: So many … I don’t even know. Hundreds.

Question: How did you land the job as general manager of Hard Rock?
Paulus Panggabean: I was working in Mulia Tower on Gatot Subroto and one day I read an advertisement that a Hard Rock was going to open here, and I love Hard Rock. Before that, I worked on a cruise ship and my roommate on the ship had worked at Hard Rock Singapore, so he told me the history of Hard Rock, everything about it. So when I went in for the interview, I impressed the GM from Singapore with how much I knew. I’d always dreamed of working at Hard Rock.

Question: Where and when did the first Hard Rock open?
Paulus Panggabean: In London, in Hyde Park, June 14, 1971. There are so many stories about Hard Rock and how it got the name. Two Americans living in London reckoned that the American food there at that time sucked, so they wanted to open a place that served good food and where the poor and the rich could hang out together, a place that treated everybody equally. Can you imagine that an ex-Rolls-Royce showroom serving greasy food across from Buckingham Palace became the most popular restaurant in London.

Questioner: And now they’re all over the world.
Paulus Panggabean: The Hard Rock logo is one of the 10 most recognized logos in the world. You know you have the Nike Swoosh, Coca-Cola and all that. The survey said that 85 percent of the people recognized the logo. Even if they weren’t sure exactly what it was, they recognized the logo.

Question: It must be rough flying from Jakarta to Bali all the time. People probably tell you every day how jealous they are of your job.
Paulus Panggabean: Yeah, it’s three weeks in Jakarta and one week in Bali. I’m blessed.

Question: What’s the difference between Hard Rock Bali and Hard Rock Jakarta?
Paulus Panggabean: The market is different in Bali; we get more tourists. Here it’s more regulars and repeat customers; we have more functions as well.

Question: How many tattoos do you have?
Paulus Panggabean: Actually I have 11 tattoos, but some of them are sleeves. I got my first tattoo when I was 22. There’s an Italian guy who comes to Bali every year. The next time he comes I’m going to get a Tibetan skull with flowers. I’ll have to do it in two sittings.

Question: What about the music that plays here at Hard Rock. Where does it come from? Do you guys make the playlist?
Paulus Panggabean: Every Hard Rock in the world is given the same playlist. We have this amazing machine called VDS, video data system, and it’s automatically downloading. It’s like a giant DVD player. Every night it automatically downloads or deletes videos. It just plays randomly. Some of the performances are really rare, they’re taken from Hard Rock live shows or other exclusive Hard Rock events.

Question: What is your favorite piece of nostalgia here?
Paulus Panggabean: I have a guitar from Steve Vai. I know him personally. He did a concert in Jakarta, he’s a cool guy. He used to play guitar for David Lee Roth, then he had a solo project and now he’s part of G3, he and Joe Satriani.

Question: You must get comments all the time on the rock memorabilia. What gets the most feedback?
Paulus Panggabean: They love the old stuff, you know, the legendary memorabilia. The young guys are amazed by the stuff from Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain.

Question: When you’re not hanging out in Hard Rock, where do you go?
Paulus Panggabean: I love to go to Dragonfly and I like Blowfish.

Question: How often do you guys have concerts?
Paulus Panggabean: We have at least two concerts a month, but we have live music every night. We have a house band here.

Question: Do you ever get behind the bar and help out?
Paulus Panggabean: Yeah, if the restaurant gets really busy, I help out where I can. I used to be a bartender so it’s no problem.

Question: Where did the name Hard Rock come from?
Paulus Panggabean: There are so many theories about where the name came from. Hard rock was a popular form of music at the time. Another one is that it came from “The Flintstones,” because the cafe is called Bed Rock Cafe. And the third one is a parable. One of the Hard Rock founders [Isaac Tigrett] is a Sathya Sai Baba follower, and Sathya Sai Baba told Isaac everyone in the world is carrying one big boulder, but you chip away your problems and you have one tiny hard rock.

But I think the real story is that in 1970, before Hard Rock opened, The Doors put out an album and on the back cover there is a picture of the Morrison Hotel and underneath there is a door that says Hard Rock Cafe. That was a year before the opening.

Question: What is the next event you guys are hosting?
Paulus Panggabean: Here in Jakarta we have Dance Company on October 2, and on October 9 it’s Andra and The Backbone.

Jakarta Globe Reference

Also see:
Hard Rock To Storm The City

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