“Don’t expect them to get invited back to SNL anytime soon”: Watch System Of A Down play a sweary B.Y.O.B. on Saturday Night Live and really annoy NBC

Serj Tankian performing live in 2005
(Image credit: NBC via YouTube/Koi No Yokan)

The heavy metal tapestry has a whole host of rebellious TV performances sewn into it. Remember the time Iron Maiden mocked a German TV show’s lip-syncing rule by tossing instruments about and letting every member take the mic? How about when Mike Patton blabbered through Faith No More’s Out Of Nowhere on Top Of The Pops? Or that moment Metallica played the odious So What! instead of King Nothing?

These off-the-rails moments are always gems, but one that’s strangely underdiscussed (likely because it’s repeatedly erased off YouTube) is when System Of A Down played Saturday Night Live and swore the house down.

The 2005 SNL episode was presented by Johnny Knoxville, so the potential for some turn-of-the-millennium-style bedlam was high from the outset. Knoxville’s sketches went without a hitch, however, and it was System who courted the most controversy. The episode was airing around the onset of the Iraq war, so the Armenian-Americans’ protest was to perform B.Y.O.B. (Bring Your Own Bombs): a big, new, commercial single, sure, but also one laced with F-bombs.

For the most part, the NBC censor on hand to look after the network’s live prime-time TV that night did their job during the set. All five of the hit’s intentional fucks were correctly removed by an almost-definitely underpaid hero with increasingly sore button-pushing fingers. However, a hyped-up Daron Malakian (vocals/guitar) threw all that effort into the bin with one ad-libbed scream of “Fuck yeah!” into the mic. The remark slipped through into America’s living rooms and corporate types weren’t happy.

A spokesman for NBC spoke to Entertainment Weekly after the fact and, according to the publication, “[placed] blame on the band and its management for the ‘unscripted expletive’” . Surprisingly, however, the representative stated that there had been zero viewer complaints over the incident. SNL did air way past most children’s bedtimes, after all.

EW concluded, “[D]on’t expect System Of A Down to get invited back to SNL anytime soon” – and they didn’t. Although, to be fair, the nu metal outlaws split in 2006, and since their 2010 reunion they’ve not made an album, so opportunities have been scant anyway. Still, swearing’s bad, kids, and System learnt that lesson that night the fucking hard way.

Matt Mills
Contributing Editor, Metal Hammer

Louder’s resident Gojira obsessive was still at uni when he joined the team in 2017. Since then, Matt’s become a regular in Prog and Metal Hammer, at his happiest when interviewing the most forward-thinking artists heavy music can muster. He’s got bylines in The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Guitar and many others, too. When he’s not writing, you’ll probably find him skydiving, scuba diving or coasteering.