Musicians are a pretty unstable bunch. Dig deep enough and there'll be plenty of skeletons in their collective closets. Open the door of ex-Emperor frontman Ihsahn's Symphonique studio in Norway, and there's an actual dangling skeleton the musicians there call by name.

"We have a private name for him, but we don't share that with anybody else," Ihsahn revealed to Noisecreep. "He's 200 years old, and I think he was a Russian soldier. He was in a school in the '50s for teaching purposes because back then they used real skeletons, not plastic ones."

When bands like Gorgoroth bring severed animal heads onstage, fans should hardly be surprised that a black metal pioneer has a real skeleton in his studio. So, did Ihsahn break into a school late at night, set it ablaze and steal their science room mascot? "No," Ihsahn said, then laughs. "We got it completely legally. We were friends with the head of all the schools in the community and we got permission from him. Rather than having it lay in pieces in some school cellar, we took care of him here."

If the thought of Ihsahn going through appropriate authority channels to obtain a skeleton is a little disillusioning, at least it's emblematic of the way the man operates these days. Ihsahn may come from a storied scene filled with sacrilege and violence, but Emperor's frontman has always embraced black metal purely on a musical and philosophical level. While he appreciates the devotion Emperor fans have shown over the years, he's a little disturbed by the way some of them perceive him.

"Sometimes I get letters with blood on them, which I have to open with care," he said. "That doesn't happen very often, though. It's more in the vein that some people within the fanbase of Emperor have very strange views on what we are and what we're supposed to be. I remember when we were on tour with Cradle of Filth in 1993. There was this Italian guy who had hitchhiked back to our town, and he saw that when [guitarist] Samoth came home, he was still living at his parent's place. The guy was so disappointed that we did not live in castles and sleep in coffins."

If he's not burning churches and memorizing satanic texts, what does one of the pioneers of Norwegian black metal do with his spare time?

"I'm just a total sucker for music," Ihsahn said. "I spend a lot of time on the Internet on a forum called 'gearslutz.com,' which is all about studio equipment and microphones and preamps and compressors. I read up on equipment and guitars and guitar effects and compositional theory. Some people find it irritating that I don't have any hobbies outside of music. I don't care. When I relax, I read [the technical recording magazine] 'Sound on Sound.' I still don't have any tattoos and I haven't collected any shrunken heads. But that's just fine with me."