Wayne Bergeron, LA studio trumpet virtuoso, discusses the trumpet and how to have success in both music and life, with Dan Gosling, The ChopSaver Guy.
In Part 1, Wayne explains what happened behind the scenes with the famous LA LA Land solo, his hilarious first gigs when he was a teenager, and how to network with other players.
Dan Gosling: Hi, everyone. My name is Dan Gosling, also known as The ChopSaver Guy, and I’m thrilled to be joined today in a discussion of not only playing the trumpet, but music making, a career in music, the incomparable Wayne Bergeron. Wayne, thank you so much-
Wayne Bergeron: How you doing, man? Great to see you.
Dan Gosling: … for being here.
Wayne Bergeron: Incomparable. Wow.
Dan Gosling: Well, I mean…
Wayne Bergeron: That’s a big word for you.
Dan Gosling: It is a big word for me. Wayne, of course, is a veteran of over, what, 400 movies?
Wayne Bergeron: Something like that, yeah.
Dan Gosling: TV shows. You’ve heard him on the Oscars. You’ve heard him on movies like The Incredibles, Incredibles 2. I know lead trumpet players around the world hate Wayne because of La La Land, in particular. You actually had almost a cameo in that, didn’t you? I mean-
Wayne Bergeron: Well, yeah. Well, there’s a big cadenza at the end that somebody sidelines to, and so that cadenza… I’ll tell you about that came. That wasn’t even written out. They had a piece of paper, and it had a shape, a squiggly line. I’m not kidding, and so that’s what you get into sometimes in the music business. They didn’t know what they wanted this to be, so they said, “This needs to be 5.2 seconds. It needs to go downward, and then the next one needs to go upward, and the next one can be kind of something weird and intervallic.”
Dan Gosling: Those were your instructions.
Wayne Bergeron: Yeah, and then it needs to end high. I go, “Well, what key is it in?” They go, “That doesn’t matter.” I go, “It has to matter. What do you mean it doesn’t matter? It has to matter.” So anyway, we go through it, and I play a little. I go…(sings). They go, “Oh, point two seconds too long.” I’m going, “No one thinks like that.” So anyway, I finally got it, and I go, “One of you cut me off. I’ll land on a note and everything.” So that being said, then I end the thing goes… And the orchestra come in, right, and so then it goes into the big scene. It’s the end of the movie, but I didn’t know. So I did all that, and this is a year before the movie came out.
Dan Gosling: Right.
Wayne Bergeron: What they did is they put all that together, and they made it into a trumpet cadenza. So now, If I had known, because now we perform this live now, and do La La Land Live, and they show the movie, and they do this with West Side Storyand other movies, and they show the movie, and so when you get to that cadenza, somebody’s got to play that now.
Dan Gosling: Live.
Wayne Bergeron: Yeah, and so you’re playing it live, and it’s to a click track. When I played it, it was free, but what I hear in my headphone is…(sings) and it’s 5/4 bar and a 3/8 bar. I wasn’t thinking about it. I was playing some licks.
Dan Gosling: They transcribed what you did.
Wayne Bergeron: They transcribed it, and so that makes it kind of odd that you’re having to play it exactly with this click track, and then it ends on this high A, which is terrifying. If I would have known I was going to be playing this again over and over, I would have played a lower note.
Dan Gosling: Not only for everyone else, but for yourself.
Wayne Bergeron: But, yeah. Yeah. I’ve made to do it a few times. I’ve done it. I did a tour of Japan of it, and I played it in Korea, and I did it in Taiwan. I did it with the Dallas Symphony, so I’ve done it a few times. It’s a pain for me too, and I played it. It was my fault, but I notice in there now they’ve got several different versions with lower notes, because I think so many trumpet players have just cacked all over it all over the world that they said… so they’d give them a lower note, because it doesn’t really matter.
Dan Gosling: Right.
Wayne Bergeron: It’s what’s seen on the screen. As long as it matches the picture, it’s okay.
Dan Gosling: Right.
Wayne Bergeron: So now anyway, that’s how that went down.
Dan Gosling: Well, you’ve just had a clinic in what a day in the life of Wayne Bergeron is actually like. You never know what you’re going to see when you go in the studios.
Wayne Bergeron: That’s right.
Dan Gosling: No one called ahead and said, “Hey, there’s going to be this big trumpet cadenza in this movie that’s going to make millions.” Right? You just knew-
Wayne Bergeron: Yeah. Well, I didn’t even… When we first started doing the movie, I didn’t even know what it was. I got a call from the contractor. Justin Hurwitz, composer. La La Land. I’m going, “Okay. Well, what’s that? I don’t know. Is it a TV show? Is it cartoon?” I mean, we don’t know.
Dan Gosling: Right.
Wayne Bergeron: So we go in, and the first sessions we’re doing the jazz tunes. We do these kind of like sound alike kind of three horn tunes with a jazz band, and we’re going through them really quickly and not getting… the changes are kind of weird, and we’re kind of playing through them. “Well, that’s a take.” I’m going, “No, man. We really need another one.” “No, no. It’s fine.” Well now, “Oh boy. I hope this never sees the light of day.” I still didn’t know what it was, really, and so we did a couple of sessions like that, and they just used little bits of that stuff. What they were saying was they had what they needed for the movie, even though we did longer versions of the tune, so when I saw the movie I go, “Oh, that’s actually all fine. It’s okay and stuff.” I was thinking I was going to hate of my own playing. You know, I hate leaving anything bad the world’s going to be seeing over and over and over again.
Then we did some orchestra days, and then I started realizing, “Oh, it’s a movie about L.A. It’s a musical.” And it came to be. Now this thing is becoming a cult.
Dan Gosling: Oh yeah. Right.
Wayne Bergeron: Yeah, I’m going to Taiwan again next year. We’re talking about doing it again, and so now I’m getting called to come out and tour it, which is kind of fun.
Dan Gosling: You had no idea it would turn into something like that.
Wayne Bergeron: Yeah, I had no idea.
Dan Gosling: That this thing would have such another lifetime.
Wayne Bergeron: Exactly, yeah, so it’s become a little side career, which is cool too. It was funny. I had to do a tour with Tokyo Philharmonic, which is a blast. I was the only Gaijin, the only foreigner in the band, and so they plugged me in there, and I look hilarious in all the pictures because there’s this one big tall giant white guy. It was really fun. The trumpet section and I and we hung every night. Just like such a fun … You know I love meeting new players and hanging out so that’s a fun part of the gig.
Dan Gosling: That’s something you did relatively recently.
Wayne Bergeron: Yeah, few years.
Dan Gosling: You kind of have a name for. Your name was synonymous with top flight, perfect, nails, lead trumpet playing in a Hollywood setting. Let’s talk a little bit about all the things that led up to you being able to perform at that level at this stage in your career. Because the early parts of your career, and actually there’s some funny stuff that Wayne did on some things that I recorded, a master class he did almost 10 years ago. You can actually still see them on the ChopSaver YouTube channel under Interviews and Master Classes. It’s like six little short clips of Wayne that you talk about like when you first started, which was if someone had seen the way you started out. It’d be fair to say I don’t think they would have predicted the kind of career that you’ve had.
Wayne Bergeron: Well, to be honest with you, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I mean I was kind of a natural trumpet player when I switched from trumpet to french horn. I had some chops. I played very inefficiently and even though I could play high and do some things. I was a pretty good player in high school but I played pretty raucously. I didn’t know I was going to be doing what I’m doing now. I always knew I wanted to make a living playing the trumpet.
Dan Gosling: You did know that-
Wayne Bergeron: Yeah, because my first gig was like in the ninth grade. I played in this band called Synopsis. It was all seniors from a high school band and then I’d come up from junior high. Their trumpet player had left so I got hired to play in this band. My first gig was at the Lynwood Bowling Alley where I grew up in Lynwood, California. Played five hours got 25 bucks.
Dan Gosling: You were hooked.
Wayne Bergeron: I was like, “I just made 25 bucks playing the trumpet.” I just thought that was the coolest thing. I said, “This is what I want to do.” We had gigs every once in a while. Then by the time I was a junior in high school, I was playing with another Top 40 band called City and it was an East L.A. band playing the Latino circuit in east L.A. We played weddings and car club dances and things like that. I was the youngest member of that band. Matter of fact, I was 15 when I did my first gig with them so my mom had to drive me. They were all older. They were all in their 20s. I mean that band was making like 75 bucks a gig. Back then and for high school kid. I was working on the weekends in high school playing weddings and stuff. I had some day jobs but mostly I got to play music to make some money. I worked in gas stations and stuff like that. I never flipped burgers. I never worked McDonald’s. I feel like I dodged that bullet as a kid.
Dan Gosling: Did you study music in college?
Wayne Bergeron: I started to go to junior college and I was going to Long Beach City College. I played in the jazz band there and I was taking some general ed stuff. I didn’t know what I wanted to do really. I needed money. I thought when I got out of high school the music industry was going to beat my door down you know, “I need Wayne Bergeron.” Apparently, that wasn’t true. They were seeing other people.
Dan Gosling: Right.
Wayne Bergeron: So I left college and I got a job at McDonnell Douglas Aircraft, which is now Boeing in Long Beach. It was a big, giant company there. Anyway, I was a tool and die maker because my dad was a machinist. I had some machine shop experience. I got this job and it paid really well. It probably paid 10 bucks an hour back then.
Dan Gosling: You hadn’t finished at-
Wayne Bergeron: No, no, I just dropped out of school to go work. I was playing on the weekends a little bit doing dumb gigs. I really wasn’t taking the trumpet very seriously. I wasn’t practicing. Rarely did I practice. I just kind of played and I wasn’t taking it that seriously. I got an opportunity one year into that job, I got called to go on the road with this guy named Buddy Miles. I don’t know if you know who Buddy Miles was, he was kind of a one hit wonder in the late 60s and he had a tune called Them Changes. You’ll know the riff if I sing it …
Dan Gosling: Oh yeah, okay.
Wayne Bergeron: That little bass riff. Every famous tune has a famous bass riff. Yeah. I got a chance to go on the road with him. I got a call from some musician I knew, “Hey, this guy Buddy Miles-” Had just got out of prison, which is a whole nother master class for another day we can do. He had just gotten out of prison for drugs and you know things. He played with Jimi Hendrix. He was in the band The Gypsy. He was very talented drummer, guitar player, and singer. I mean totally great on kind of an ignorant street level but great. We started rehearsing to do this thing. We had a six piece horn section with this great band. We had these great charts to play and stuff.
Dan Gosling: You’re like 20?
Wayne Bergeron: Yeah, I guess, it’s 1980, probably 82.
Dan Gosling: Okay.
Wayne Bergeron: Yeah. Maybe 20 in that range. We go on the road. We go to New York. It’s my first kind of road trip.
Dan Gosling: Wow.
Wayne Bergeron: We take a plane down to New York City. We get there. We have limousines pick us up. I’m thinking, “Man, I have arrived. Man, I have just … Look at this, man.” We get in these limos. That’s where the luxury ended was right there. They take us to the Chelsea Hotel in the Chelsea area of New York. Now, the Chelsea Hotel now it’s a very nice area. It’s kind of a gay district of New York. It’s been fixed up really nice. It’s really nice over there. That hotel now is very trendy. Well, at that time though-
Dan Gosling: Not so trendy.
Wayne Bergeron: It was just to give you a taste of the glamour of this place, you know who Sid Vicious is? Of the Sex Pistols?
Dan Gosling: Yeah. Right. Right.
Wayne Bergeron: This is the hotel where he killed his girlfriend.
Dan Gosling: Oh, nice okay.
Wayne Bergeron: This is where that happened.
Dan Gosling: Okay.
Wayne Bergeron: That’s room 101 and that’s where the sax player and a couple of the other guys roomed in room 101. Brandon even wrote a tune called Room 101. We’re staying at this dump of a hotel. I don’t care, man, I’m in New York City. On the limo ride from there to the hotel, these girls, “What band you guys with?” I’m an idiot. I got the window opened holding it out thinking I’m cool. You know? Just being stupid. “Oh, we’re playing with Buddy Miles.” “What hotel you all staying at?” They follow us over there. We meet these girls. I meet this girl, Lisa, we still say hi, which is very cool. Anyway, they come to the gigs with us and hang out. We went and hung out and had dinner and had fun with them.
We did our first gig which is Rockaway Beach, Long Island. It went really well. Then we did a couple more. We haven’t been paid yet. That was the kind of the drawback. No money yet. They kept saying, “Oh, yeah the managements going to be wiring the money.” We do like five or six gigs and the thing is folding so they’re not going to pay us. They sneak out of the hotel. This is before all the technology we have in hotels now. I didn’t have a credit card or any money. The management left, they stranded us in New York. I had a plane ticket home. That’s all I had. I had to sneak out, literally sneaking out the fire exits you see on those big buildings? We had to sneak out because they didn’t pay the bill.
Dan Gosling: Wow.
Wayne Bergeron: That was show business. Isn’t this awesome, man? It’s kind of my first road gig. It was my last day job though. From the musicians I met on that gig, there’s a great sax player, Brandon Fields and a sax player named Jeff Jordan, which are the finest sax players that I know to this day. Great, great players and we got to be really good friends. When we got back, made our way back home and now we all have these stories to tell about this. There’s stories I can’t tell. We have some stories, let me tell you.
We get back and we’re all keeping in touch. They recommended me for some gigs. They worked with a lot better musicians than I was used to working with. Now I’m hearing better musicians and trumpet players that they know. I’m like, “Man, this guy, Walt Fowler!” I played with him. This guy is like great. I did realize he’s a lot better than me. Immediately when you’re around somebody that’s better than you, everybody steps up their game a little. Instantly you become a better player kind of.
Dan Gosling: Or you don’t last.
Wayne Bergeron: Yeah. I mean you got to be listening. Anyway, I started growing as a musician. I started getting a little more serious about playing the trumpet. I had some natural ability up to there but I really had a lot to learn. I still do. I’m still, I’m 60 years old, I’m still catching up. Trying to undo bad habits. I wish I knew what I knew now because I would have taken a different approach.
Dan Gosling: Right, we all…
Wayne Bergeron: We can all look at our careers and we can usually pinpoint back to a turning point. That horrible experience turned out to be good, because my career blossomed from there. It was slow, it wasn’t like, “Oh, yeah, I’ve arrived.”
Dan Gosling: Yeah, right. Right.
Wayne Bergeron: I started getting better work. I started auditioning for places like Disneyland. I just wanted to play. I worked there for 10 years off and on doing goofy costumes.
Dan Gosling: You’re doing the parades and the costumes and all that?
Wayne Bergeron: Yeah, and the shows and subbing in the Disneyland Band. That was another training because there was so many great musicians working there. I got the opportunity to get in there and then man, you start learning because these players played better than me there. I was learning a lot so I was becoming a better player.
Dan Gosling: Expound on that. I was becoming a better player. What kinds of things were you doing then that-
Wayne Bergeron: I would hear somebody play something and you hear that and immediately you start imitating. I also get together with somebody and maybe we play duets. I hear this person, we’d play duets together. There’s this classical player, I love a classical player. Then I’m listening how they play. They might even be saying, “Oh, yeah, tone the notes lighter.” Or whatever. I was learning. I was getting paid to take trumpet lessons.
Dan Gosling: Right. You weren’t like “studying” with anybody at the time?
Wayne Bergeron: Not really. I mean I took some lessons for different people but not at that time.