The album was recorded between February and November 2003 at Cornerstone Studios in Berkeley, California, with Mark Needham and Jeff Saltzman; and in Las Vegas with the help of Corlene Byrd. Many of the tracks were originally recorded as demos, which the band decided to keep for their spontaneity. They did, however, have some tracks remixed by Alan Moulder at Eden Studios in London.
Hot Fuss is mainly influenced by New Wave and post-punk artists such as New Order, The Cure, Morrissey (with and without The Smiths), Duran Duran, and The Cars. Other influences include David Bowie, U2, Oasis, Smashing Pumpkins, and Lou Reed.
The album includes the second and third parts of the so-called Murder Trilogy, “Midnight Show” and “Jenny Was a Friend of Mine”. The first part, “Leave the Bourbon on the Shelf”, appears on The Killers’ B-sides and rarities compilation, Sawdust.