Recording for the album commenced in late August 2005 in Rome, Italy. Mixing began in late October 2005. Originally Morrissey was to record the album with producer Jeff Saltzman, however, he could not undertake the project. Early in recording Morrissey's publicist described it, contradictingly, as "the most full-on rock record Morrissey's ever done. It's a balls-to-the-wall rock record, not a slow one like the last one".
Producer Tony Visconti, of T. Rex and David Bowie fame, took over the production role and Morrissey announced that Ringleader of the Tormentors is to be "the most beautiful—perhaps the most gentle—so far". Visconti wrote on his website:
The musicians recording with Morrissey in Rome were Alain Whyte, Boz Boorer, Jesse Tobias, Gary Day, Michael Farrell and Matt Chamberlain. Chamberlain replaced Dean Butterworth, who decided to continue drumming for the band Good Charlotte. Marco Origel, from the San Francisco area, handled engineering on the album.
The album's opening track, "I Will See You in Far-off Places", was leaked on the internet on 2 February 2006. The music combines mystic chanting, horns, buzzsaw guitars, a pounding bass line and relentless drumming with vocal gymnastics reminiscent of several tracks from You Are the Quarry such as "Come Back to Camden" and "You Know I Couldn't Last".